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Antonio Brown going broke is a symptom not the problem

In early January of 2022 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Antonio Brown of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a complete meltdown on the field during the game. He stormed of the field shirtless after an alleged disagreement with Tampa Bay coaches and effectively ending his NFL career. Recently it was reported that Brown filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was another sad chapter in the otherwise talented athlete’s life.

Antonio Brown was a 2010 6th round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He went on to play for Pittsburgh for nine years. After a short stint with the Raiders, he went to Foxborough, Massachusetts to play with his friend Tom Brady on the New England Patriots. There he only played one year. Brown followed Brady to Tampa Bay in 2020 and won a Super Bowl. In his 12-year NFL career Antonio Brown made $88 million dollars. He somehow went broke like many other high earning professional athletes.

A 2012 documentary called Broke explains how 60% of NBA players and 78% of NFL players are bankrupt within 5 years of their retirement. Some have chronic medical problems other are stalked by freeloaders and scammers. But most players must also show off their wealth and live an ostentatious lifestyle that can only be sustained if they played their whole life.

On average an NFL career lasts 3.5 years. Almost all the players come into the league in their early 20’s and lack the financial wisdom or experience to manage the pile of money given to them. I think all of us thought that our 20’s would last forever and that we knew everything. But we were naïve to the reality that father time is undefeated, and we will not be young forever.  Sooner or later our youth gives way to getting older. The NFL must be the most physically draining career to have. The NFL always stood for not for long for a reason. And Antonio Brown was no different.

Putting aside his behavioral or mental issues, Antonio Brown was like many other players after retirement facing financial difficulties. The NFL could do better on educating players on financial planning and investing. Players with better support from their families and agents can be better served as well. Meanwhile the NFL will have record revenue with new streaming deals and a potential 18 game season. Why won’t they better serve the retired players that got them to this point? That is the real question to answer while addressing this problem.


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