Pro Athletes Go ‘Broke’ in New ESPN Documentary

From Wall Street Journal:

Ever wonder how professional athletes with multimillion-dollar contracts can end up bankrupt?

In the new documentary “Broke,” which is set to air on ESPN Tuesday evening, director Billy Corben provides a “step by step guide on how to go broke” by talking to the current and former professional athletes who’ve gone broke themselves or have watched teammates and peers drain their bank accounts.

Hint: It’s more than just dropping thousands of dollars at a nightclub or buying Porsches and Escalades for yourself, your parents and your crew. It’s getting a $1 million check when you don’t even know how to open a bank account. It’s not hiring the right advisers to manage your career and your money. It’s being targeted by fraudsters claiming they can multiply (or resurrect) your wealth.

It’s expecting to score touchdowns, make slam dunks and hit home runs for a decade but really only playing the game for a few years. It’s facing huge health-care bills from the injuries you constantly sustain. And it’s not being able to say no to the family and friends that helped you rise up the ranks, even if you didn’t even know you had those family and friends.

“So many of the stories from the athletes are almost identical,” Corben told Bankruptcy Beat Monday.

The director told us he was inspired to make the film several years ago, when former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar filed for bankruptcy protection. Corben, who had recently interviewed Kosar for another documentary, said the news shocked him.

“Bernie played 12 seasons in the NFL—over three times the length of the average career. He was also known for being more financially successful in business after he retired” from his lucrative career, Corben said.

Kosar’s 2009 bankruptcy filing came as a result of the economic downturn, particularly the collapse of the real-estate market. His situation not only mirrors other athletes’ woes but also those of average Americans, Corben said.

Kosar is featured in the film along with other names that will be familiar to Bankruptcy Beat readers, like Curt Schilling. The former Boston Red Sox pitcher, whose videogame company filed for bankruptcy protection this summer, recalled cashing his first paycheck and spreading the $20 bills around him on a hotel bed as he watched TV and ordered room service. Schilling, who earned more than $100 million throughout his career, thought he’d “never” be able to spend it all. Now, he said he expects to lose between $40 million and $50 million as a result of his company’s bankruptcy.

“I never believed that you could beat me,” Schilling says in the film. “I lost.”

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