I am not trying to rub salt in Detroit Lions fans wounds. I grew up in Saskatoon and watched a lot of Detroit cable. I was there for the Barry Sanders and Wayne Fontes era. It just happened to have Scott Mitchell as their QB…
In watching Megatron’s retirement talk, a couple of things came across my mind. One of them was why don’t teams pay a player like Calvin Johnson to take a year off at this point of their careers and get totally healthy.
Give him a couple of months off and then pay him to come back and work out, get back in shape and come back healthy for the year ahead. Before you discount this as crazy, consider that one of the reasons why Marcus Allen had a such a long run in Los Angeles and Kansas City is that he was rarely used in his late 20s and early 30s because of the insanity of Al Davis and that feud that only Davis really knew what he was mad about. It had to suck for Allen to go through but it prolonged his career.
The (pretty good) O.J. Anderson had a career revival in New York for the Giants on their 1991 Super Bowl team because in part he was barely used for years after the St. Louis Cardinals ground him to pieces as their feature back. His body recovered and was great in that three yards and a cloud of dust attack that New York had.
Look at Kurt Warner. It took him a couple of years for his body to heal after Mike Martz’s attack left him beaten and bruised in St. Louis. He wasn’t a great, then bad, and then great QB again. He was always great, his body just needed time to heal after the pounding his took as part of the Greatest Show on Turf.
Part me wonders if the Lions paid Johnson a reduced salary to rest up and get healthy, if he wouldn’t come back. Being in pain every day takes a toll on you both physically and mentally. Not all players would come back after a break away but other stars would be able to come back and be better than they were before. It wouldn’t be something you would do for everyone but there are select “generational talents” that giving a break too would pay off for a franchise and the game.
Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who’s been photographed partying from coast to coast since the day he was drafted, entered a treatment facility Wednesday and is getting the help he needs, according to a family friend and advisor.
“Brad Beckworth, a friend and advisor to Manziel and his family, has confirmed that Johnny entered treatment on Wednesday,” a statement from Manziel’s publicist read. “Johnny knows there are areas in which he needs to improve in order to be a better family member, friend and teammate, and he thought the offseason was the right time to take this step.Â
“On behalf of Johnny and his family, we’re asking for privacy until he rejoins the team in Cleveland.”
The Browns also released the following statement from general manager Ray Farmer:
“We respect Johnny’s initiative in this decision and will fully support him throughout this process. Our players’ health and well-being will always be of the utmost importance to the Cleveland Browns. We continually strive to create a supportive environment and provide the appropriate resources, with our foremost focus being on the individual and not just the football player.
“Johnny’s privacy will be respected by us during this very important period and we hope that others will do the same.”
Manziel’s partying was chronicled over the last year, from floating on swans to rolling up a bill in the bar of a bathroom, which the Browns found most “disturbing,” sources told Northeast Ohio Media Group.
I am not a big fan of Johnny Manziel as a football player. Â I think he is better as a CFL than a NFL qb but I am happy for Manziel as a human being. Â His season was a train wreck last year in most part of his partying and alcohol consumption.
I also think that the jump from the SEC (or any team in the NCAA) is so big that only a few can make it. Â The talent is one reason but also you are no longer big man on campus. Â Coaches like Mack Brown, Kevin Sumlin, or Jimbo Fisher arenâ€™t covering for you. Â The school president isnâ€™t there to make excuses for you and there are no more professors who just want to be part of the â€œteamâ€. Â Vince Young never made the transition from college star to professional. Â Even Tim Tebow never seemed to get it (especially after he had some success in Denver). Â Hopefully Manziel finds some answers in rehab. Â Not about football but about life.
So I heard Derek Powazek talking on Twitter about having a fresh start on Twitter.Â Someone posted a YouTube video with code on how to unfollow everyone.Â After a couple of days of considering it, I decided to try it and saw me unfollow almost 1100 people.
So as soon as I did that, I decided to go look for interesting people to follow.Â Of course there was some family and friends but I decided to find local people to follow and started to click “follow”.Â It was a lot of fun and some people that I was aware of and enjoyed their tweets and never followed were added to the list.
That took me to about 300 followers and then I looked at who I should be following.Â It was all Alberta names!Â Apparently many of us in Saskatoon keep an idea on what is going on in Calgary and Edmonton.
I added a few national voices to my followers, photographers, and photography sites and I found myself back at about 900 followers.Â I also realized that Saskatoon now has a lot of journalists covering city hall.Â You can blame Dave Hutton for that.
I also followed some MLAs from both sides of the floor.Â My advice for them is to be more like Brad Wall, Cam Broten, Trent Weatherspoon, or Dustin Duncan.Â It’s okay to act more like humans and less like robots folks!
The people I left behind were the spin doctors, NFL pundits, and a lot of American political voices.Â They can be fun to follow but don’t contribute much to my life.
If I unfollowed you and haven’t followed you back, don’t take it personally.Â It will take some time to track down everyone I left behind and I’ll get to you soon.
Many of you are aware that I said goodbye to the NFL this fall after the Ray Rice scandal hit and wonder how I did. Â Here are my thoughts of the NFL season that never was.
- I still watched some football. Â I am a Notre Dame fan and of course Mark plays high school football (where he played every position on the defence this season). Â I enjoyed a lot of it. Â I also came to grips that I am not a CFL fan. Â I wish I was a bigger one but I really am not.
- We cancelled cable and I got rid of my NFL Now subscription. Â That hurt a bit but I vowed not to give the NFL any money in 2014. Â I didnâ€™t.
- I spent my Sundays with Wendy which was time well spent. Â We went for coffee at City Perk, out for walks, and explored the city.
- I realized how much time some of my friends spend watching the NFL. Â Sunday, Monday, and Thursdays. Â Thatâ€™s a lot of time in front of a television.
- After spending 25 years a die hard Denver Broncos fan, it was weird not to know how they were doing during the season.
- Despite giving up on the game, I still heard a lot about Jonny Football. Â That isnâ€™t a good thing.
- I am still a fan of the game but Roger Goodall makes the game almost impossible to respect. Â Even if you get past him, you have Jerry Jones, Jerry Richardson, Woody Johnson, Jimmy Haslam, Jerry Jones (whose stadium uses more oil than Liberia on game days), and of course Daniel Snyder who are all owners who have done horrible things. Â Of course the NFL and other leagues all have horrible owners (Darryl Katz anyone?) but the idea of me giving my money to them really bothers me. Â Again, Iâ€™m not calling for a boycott, itâ€™s just a personal decision.
- I have spent a little more time watching the Raptors (maybe because they are good), the Calgary Flames (after we had a breakup back in the late 90s during the second last lockout) and while I canâ€™t watch such bad hockey, I find myself enamoured by the train wreck that is the Edmonton Oilers.
- I should link to this, other pro sports owners are horrible humans as well.
- In the end, not watching the NFL wasnâ€™t really that big of deal. Â It is a bunch of millionaire athletes playing a childâ€™s game in the hope of winning a championship which will somehow validate themselves in their minds. Â Itâ€™s fun to watch but doesnâ€™t matter a lot to me in the big picture.
- It is also a big business in which local communities are pitted against each other to keep their billionaire franchise owners even richer. Â That part is what I find so offensive.
- I was happy to see the NFL take a tougher stance against Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson but at the same time, this should have been done decades ago. Â For all of the Ray Riceâ€™s, there was a Warren Moon who was never suspended. Â I am hoping there are changes moving forward but I am still going to take a wait and see. Â I just have no faith in Goodall or owners like Richardson who wonâ€™t cut or suspend Greg Hardy.
Lesson 1: If you pull often enough on state and municipal levers, the gold of public subsidies inevitably tumbles into your hands.
Last week I strolled from the Mississippi River and the sylvan parks that line its banks, past the elegant Guthrie Theater and handsome condos, to a construction site and its forest of giant yellow cranes. A new stadium for the Vikings is rising here with a roof and state of the art everything. It is undeniably impressive, as it should be: This Taj Mahal will cost state and city taxpayers more than half a billion dollars.
Through their lobbyist, the Wilfs noted that they would pay rent on this stadium, which is grand of them. The project will also create a jewel of a public park next to the stadium.
Unfortunately, this park will not be as public as advertised. The fine print gives the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority control on most weekends other than those during the deep chill of winter. (The Vikings may place a soccer team in the stadium, which would extend their control of the park.)
The city remains on the hook for park maintenance. According to an analysis conducted for the Park and Recreation Board, the park came without any financing to pay for its upkeep.
â€œTheyâ€™re running circles around us like weâ€™re rubes,â€ former Gov. Arne Carlson said. â€œYou have children living outside in parks and tents. We donâ€™t have the money to take care of that problem. But we have hundreds of millions of dollars to pour into Zygi Wilf?
â€œItâ€™s an embarrassment, really.â€
The genius of the N.F.L. is that when talk turns to public financing, shame is viewed as a disabling emotion. We obsess on the failings of Roger Goodell, commissioner of the $10 billion nonprofit National Football League. But the men who own the leagueâ€™s franchises are more intriguing, not to mention more powerful.
Continue reading the main storyThe league makes relatively few demands of these owners, other than requiring that they are terribly wealthy. And it offers them a prime directive: build ever-grander stadiums and make sure that every stream of revenue â€” suites, seats, concessions, parking â€” sluices into your coffers. Do this, and weâ€™ll help you gang tackle cities and states. Weâ€™ll even throw in a Super Bowl to boot.
Read the entire column and ask yourself if this is a league that deserves your money. Â Itâ€™s sickening to realize how it literally loots cities and states to grow itâ€™s business.
- After the Saskatoon Transit lockout is done, I canâ€™t see Ann Iwanchuk winning a second full term. Â Especially with Mike San Miguel quietly running again. Â Her campaign was largely financed by labour and with the city attacking the ATU like it did, her slim margin of victory, her constituents relying on Transit heavily, and a lack of a signature issue so far, it could be really tough to win re-election.
- It could hurt Clark and Loewen with their base and could mobilize the non voting parts of Ward 2 to really hurt Lorje. Â I am not saying councillors will lose their seats but rather could face much tougher re-election races than they would have. Â The right opponents will capitalize on this.
- Despite what people think, this wonâ€™t hurt the mayor at all. Â That is what the attack ads are targeted to protect (at the expense of councillors). Â In many ways he could come out of this the winner, especially if this weakens rivals and empowers his base which to be honest, never rides a bus.
- Of course the city being the city, coincided the lockout with the Mayorâ€™s Cultural Gala. Â You had some city councillors tweeting pictures of the cityâ€™s elite having a fun time while lower class people were being kicked off buses and having to walk home. Â
- Why would the city run attack ads against the very union it needs to negotiate with on the first day. Â Saskatoon already has laughable communications and that didnâ€™t exactly make the city look good. Â Of course the political nature of the ads was bizarre. Â Several city councillors swore to me that they never had any foreknowledge of the ads until they ran but both city staff and some others on council say that council saw and approved the ads in an in-camera session of executive committee. Â Itâ€™s not exactly breaking news that council members lie to me on issues. Â
- Speaking of executive committees, it would be a lot easier for them to lie to me if council and staff stopped leaking what happened in there. Â If only they had a way to investigate the leaksâ€¦
- I have had several discouraging conversations with people who are utterly dependent on the bus for work, to provide care for a spouse who is in a nursing home, to get to school. Â In Saskatoon we call those people collateral damage.
- It is weird to hear councillors go all out in defence of their real fiduciary duty but ignore their responsibility to those who rely on a public service. Â Empathy for those who have been hurt by this strike has not been something that has been communicated well.
- I donâ€™t really miss the NFL. Â You would think I would after watching it every week since 1987 but I havenâ€™t. Â I glance at some scores but other than that, I havenâ€™t really missed it. Â I still have some college football, the Huskies, and the CFL but I have never cared about them like the NFL.
- Brady Hoke needs to be fired from the University of Michigan. Â He sent back out a quarterback with a concussion back onto the field. Â That should be a fireable offence in any league (including when the Calgary Stampeders did it a couple of years ago in a playoff game against the Riders). Â You send out a player with a brain injury, you are fired or suspended, especially in the NCAA.
- What could Stephen Harper be thinking? Â $300,000 courtesy ride for a couple of European diplomats because he wanted to have them at a reception? Â Does he just not care anymore? Â That does not look like a move by a politician who is planning on re-election. Â Not only that but there is still widespread opposition to the deal in Germany.
- The NFL is talking with Texas head coach Charlie Strong who has taken some strong steps in dealing with player misconduct.Â â€œWe can’t compromise and sometimes that means getting rid of the best player.”
- If you are a big company and you want to associate your brand with a strong event, Iâ€™d talk to the people behind Nuit Blanche right now. Â Over 5000 people were on 20th Street last night for the inaugural event and it was a big time success. Â People were partying, shopping, and hanging out all over the place. Â What a great event. Â Someone needs to step up and get behind it in 2015 monetarily so it can get bigger.
- After reading this piece by Cathal Kelly, you will realize that the Blue Jays will never get any better than they are now. Â So yeah, that kind of sucks.
Most of you know how much I love the NFL. Â I wrote about it a couple of years ago in this post. Â Each weekend I catch a couple of games from Thursday night to Monday. Â I subscribed to NFL Now. Â I have a fantasy team. Â I have been a fan since I watched John Elway and the Denver Broncos blow the biggest lead in Monday Night Football history against the hated Los Angeles Raiders. Â Somehow I became a life long Denver Broncos fan and if I saw Raiders quarterback Jay Schroeder on the street, Iâ€™d boo him in real life.
All through the 80s Iâ€™d rage at The StarPhoenix sports desk for never posting the west coast scores of key Broncos games and would have to go downtown to the main library to find a â€œreal paperâ€ to find out the score (real paper was always the New York Times who hated their sports desk and make them stay up late so they could publish the west coast scores or USA Today who probably felt the same way). Â I hated the sports broadcasting of first 650 CKOM and then C95 for only occasionally mentioning the occasional NFL score which ignoring the important AFC West games. (important as in Broncos scores)
Yet for some reason this year, Iâ€™ve had enough for a few years now, the cons have been piling up:
- The response to head injuries (read the entire feature on what concussions did to former Steeler great Mike WebsterÂ to see what playing in the NFL does to players)
- The league pressuring cities in the middle of bad economic times to spend to build new buildings for owners or their franchise will move to Los Angeles (see Oakland, Minnesota, New Orleans (before the Hurricane) andÂ Jacksonville)
- The leagueâ€™s nonprofit status and how they manipulate and abuse local cities to pay for insane things for the Super BowlÂ (donâ€™t click on that link, it will just make you angry)
- Turning a blind eye to the reliance on drugs (PEDs and otherwise) which going crazy over pot. (the NFL is soft on HGH but is ten times tougher on pot then the IOC)
- Finally it was the Ray Rice incident and the reality for me that the NFL condones violence against women. Â 21 of 32 NFL teams employed a player with a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record last year. Commissioner Roger Goodell said back in 2012 that he wanted to get serious about domestic violence. Â In 2014 he gave a two game suspension to Ray Rice while victimizing his fiancee (and now wife) by having her tell her version of events in front of the man that abused her.
The worst part of the Ray Rice thing was that well respected GM of the Baltimore Ravens suggested that Riceâ€™s wife was to blame and the Ravens Twitter account even tweeted out her apology. Â An apology apparently for being violently hit? Â The NFL could have also demanded to see the video (â€œumm, Ray you are suspended until we see all of the sealed evidenceâ€) and it isnâ€™t as if the first videos of Janay Rice laying on the floor of the elevator and Ray Rice kicking her lifeless body to the side wasnâ€™t horrible enough. Â If you havenâ€™t seen it, it made me sick to watch it.
No, something is wrong at the NFL. Â Roger Goodell is a big part of the problem. Â He was going to be the new sheriff that was going to clean up the league and protect the â€œshieldâ€. Â Instead he became obsessed over pot (which is not a performance enhancing drug) which ignoring the bigger issue why so many NFL players are violent towards women, in a league that is trying to aggressively market itself towards women.
In fact, a lower percentage of NFL players are violent towards women than in the general population but because of wealth, status and a stable of high priced lawyers most of those charged, get away without penalty (the worst example of all time is boxer Floyd Mayweather – donâ€™t read this link unless you have some time to get angry). Â The other issue is for a NFL player, what constitutes a jury of their peers. Â Many people on that jury cheered for him, wore his jersey, and was a fan of the team he was on. Â The league is stuck trying to penalize itâ€™s players. Â Of course by handing out ridiculous penalties for pot use or for dog violence, you would expect them to give out severe penalties for violently hitting a women. Â Nope, those are the lenient penalties which both reflect a problem with the league and society in general.
So yeah, I am fed up with the NFL. Â I still love football. Â Mark is trying out as a linebacker for the Bedford RoadÂ
RedmenÂ errÂ RedBlacksÂ err Red Hawks. Â There is the NCAA, the CIS, or if forced to watch it, the CFL. Â Iâ€™ll still have football but unless there are some serious reforms in the NFL, I am done. Â How do I say to Mark and Oliver that it is never ever okay to hit a women and then sit down and turn on the NFL which condones violence against women.
Itâ€™s been a great 26 years of being a diehard Denver Broncos fan but enough is enough. Â Roger Goodell has to go and until something changes, Iâ€™m out of here.
Just watch this. Â It doesnâ€™t matter whether you like sports or not, you just need to watch it. Â The bad news is that this kind of attitude goes beyond football, if you doubt me, read this sickening account of Floyd Mayweather that Deadspin published.
While it remains impossible to open a window into a personâ€™s soul to see whether the poison of racism resides there, it is possible to screen those whose words and actions suggest that they harbor such beliefs.
Donald Sterlingâ€™s words and actions suggest that he does. And the evidence existed long before TMZ published its tape of his voice.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Sterling agreed in 2009 to a $2.765 million settlement of charges that he discriminated against African-Americans and others at an apartment building he owned. The Times also reports that a lawsuit filed in 2003 accused Sterling of saying â€œHispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,â€ and that â€œblack tenants smell and attract vermin.â€ The case was resolved with a confidential settlement, but Sterling reportedly paid $5 million in legal fees to the plaintiffs.
Amazingly, those claims and the settlements of those claims generated little or no publicity or scorn of Sterling. If an NFL owner were accused of such conduct, the mere allegations would become major national news. If an NFL owner ever settled a case involving such allegations, the league office undoubtedly would be forced to take decisive action or face strong contentions of the existence of a double standard.
Itâ€™s all the more reason for the NFL to treat this occasion as the catalyst for ensuring that its house â€” specifically, its 32 houses â€” are in order. Existing owners should be warned clearly about the potential consequences of such conduct. Potential owners should be screened even more carefully to determine that they have done or said nothing that would suggest that their hearts are rotten with racism or other qualities that could result in their wealth and power being used to violate the rights of others.
Per a league source, NFL owners already expect Commissioner Roger Goodell to address the situation in some way at the next ownership meetings in May.
Itâ€™s often impossible to get to the truth of a personâ€™s attitudes regarding matters of race. But the Sterling situation underscores the importance of taking all reasonably available steps to ensure that the countryâ€™s biggest sports business is doing business with people who have not only the wealth to assume such an important responsibility, but also the character.
Hey look, they just got their butts handed to them by the Toydaria Wattos.
On Sept. 7, 2012, this website published a letter I had written to Maryland delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. chastising him for trampling the free-speech rights of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. The letter also detailed why I supported the rights of same-sex couples to get married. It quickly went viral.
On Sept. 8, the head coach of the Vikings, Leslie Frazier, called me into his office after our morning special-teams meeting. I anticipated it would be about the letter (punters aren’t generally called into the principal’s office). Once inside, Coach Frazier immediately told me that I “needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff” (referring to my support for same-sex marriage rights). I told Coach Frazier that I felt it was the right thing to do (what with supporting equality and all), and I also told him that one of his main coaching points to us was to be “good men” and to “do the right thing.” He reiterated his fervent desire for me to cease speaking on the subject, stating that “a wise coach once told me there are two things you don’t talk about in the NFL, politics and religion.” I repeated my stance that this was the right thing to do, that equality is not something to be denied anyone, and that I would not promise to cease speaking out. At that point, Coach Frazier told me in a flat voice, “If that’s what you feel you have to do,” and the meeting ended. The atmosphere was tense as I left the room.
On Sept. 9, before our game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the owner of the team, Zygi Wilf, came up to me, shook my hand, and told me: “Chris, I’m proud of what you’ve done. Please feel free to keep speaking out. I just came from my son’s best friend’s wedding to his partner in New York, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”
On Sept. 10, I was once again called into Leslie Frazier’s office. Coach Frazier asked me if I was going to keep speaking out on the matter of same-sex marriage and equality. I responded that I was, and I related what Zygi Wilf had said to me at the game the day before. Coach Frazier looked stunned and put his hand across his face. He then told me: “Well, he writes the checks. It looks like I’ve been overruled.” At that point, he got his personal public relations assistant on a conference call to ask her what to do. She outlined some strategies, mainly centered around talking only with large national media groups and ignoring the smaller market stations (radio, television, print). I said that I would be sure not to say anything to denigrate the team, but that I would like to talk with anyone who was interested. Both Coach Frazier and his PR person attempted to dissuade me from this course of action, saying that the message would be more effective if presented properly. I suspected this was another attempt to keep me from speaking out. I did not agree to any course of action they suggested, and I left the meeting once it concluded.
On or around Sept. 17 (could have possibly been Sept. 19), I approached our head of public relations, Bob Hagan. It had come to my attention via Twitter that multiple news sources were attempting to contact me through the Vikings and had been unable to reach me (I learned this via those same agencies asking me on Twitter if I was available for interviews, to which I responded affirmatively). I told Bob Hagan that from this point on, any media requests he received were to be forwarded immediately to me. I would take care of them. He told me that he was trying to protect me from being overwhelmed. I repeated my request that he forward all media requests to me, as I could handle them. He assented, and later that day I found three media requests in my locker (to which I had already responded via Twitter), two of which were dated from four to six days earlier.
Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. He would ask me if I had written any letters defending “the gays” recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed. I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things. After all, he was directly responsible for reviewing my job performance, but I hoped that after the vote concluded in Minnesota his behavior would taper off and eventually stop.
On Oct. 25, I had a poor game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Vikings brought in several punters for a workout to potentially replace me. I do not believe this was motivated by my speaking out on same-sex equality, though I do not know for sure. During the special-teams meeting the following day, Mike Priefer berated me in an incredibly harsh tone the likes of which I’ve never heard a coach use about my abilities as a punter (and I have been berated before). The room went silent after he finished speaking, in a way that normally does not happen during meetings when someone is being called out. The Vikings kept me on as their punter.
Near the end of November, several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting. The atmosphere was decidedly tense. I had never had an interaction that hostile with any of my teammates on this issueâ€”some didn’t agree with me, but our conversations were always civil and respectful. Afterward, several told me that what Mike Priefer had said was “messed up.”
The entire article is worth reading, especially because it means he will probably never play in the NFL again. Â Sadly these kind of attitudes are not limited to NFL locker rooms.
By the way, firingÂ Rob Chudzinski is a joke move by the Cleveland Browns. Â The entire season was supposed to be about the future (trading Trent Richardson) and he had the worst quarterback situation in the league. Â No one can win in that situation. Â Their franchise player, Joe Thomas was right when he said, â€œsuccessful franchises donâ€™t fire their coach after one seasonâ€. Â Well no one is confusing the Cleveland Browns with a successful franchise.
What the hell happened here? Seven floors above the iced-over Dallas North Tollway, Raghib (Rocket) Ismail is revisiting the question. It’s December, and Ismail is sitting in the boardroom of Chapwood Investments, a wealth management firm, his white Notre Dame snow hat pulled down to his furrowed brow.
In 1991 Ismail, a junior wide receiver for the Fighting Irish, was the presumptive No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Instead he signed with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts for a guaranteed $18.2 million over four years, then the richest contract in football history. But today, at a private session on financial planning attended by eight other current or onetime pro athletes, Ismail, 39, indulges in a luxury he didn’t enjoy as a young VIP: hindsight.
“I once had a meeting with J.P. Morgan,” he tells the group, “and it was literally like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher.” The men surrounding Ismail at the conference table include Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, Cowboys wideout Isaiah Stanback and six former pros: NFL cornerback Ray Mickens and fullback Jerald Sowell (both of whom retired in 2006), major league outfielder Ben Grieve and NBA guard Erick Strickland (’05), and linebackers Winfred Tubbs (’00) and Eugene Lockhart (’92). Ismail (’02) cackles ruefully. “I was so busy focusing on football that the first year was suddenly over,” he says. “I’d started with this $4 million base salary, but then I looked at my bank statement, and I just went, What the…?”
Before Ismail can elaborate on his bewildermentâ€”over the complexity of that statement and the amount of money he had already lostâ€”eight heads are nodding, eight faces smiling in sympathy. Hunter chimes in, “Once you get into the financial stuff, and it sounds like Japanese, guys are just like, ‘I ain’t going back.’ They’re lost.”
At the front of the room Ed Butowsky also does a bobblehead nod. Stout, besuited and silver-haired, Butowsky, 47, is a managing partner at Chapwood and a former senior vice president at Morgan Stanley. His bailiwick as a money manager has long been billionaires, hundred-millionaires and CEOsâ€”a club that, the Steinbrenners’ pen be damned, still doesn’t include many athletes. But one afternoon six years ago Butowsky was chatting with Tubbs, his neighbor in the Dallas suburb of Plano, and the onetime Pro Bowl player casually described how money spills through athletes’ fingers. Tubbs explained how and when they begin earning income (often in school, through illicit payments from agents); how their pro salaries are invested (blindly); and when the millions evaporate (before they know it).
“The details were mind-boggling,” recalls Butowsky, who would later hire Tubbs to work in business development at Chapwood. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
What happens to many athletes and their money is indeed hard to believe. In this month alone Saints alltime leading rusher Deuce McAllister filed for bankruptcy protection for the Jackson, Miss., car dealership he owns; Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad put his mansion in Charlotte up for sale on eBay a month after news broke that his entertainment company was being sued by Wachovia Bank for overdue credit-card payments; and penniless former NFL running back Travis Henry was jailed for nonpayment of child support.
In a less public way, other athletes from the nation’s three biggest and most profitable leaguesâ€”the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseballâ€”are suffering from a financial pandemic. Although salaries have risen steadily during the last three decades, reports from a host of sources (athletes, players’ associations, agents and financial advisers) indicate that:
â€¢ By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
â€¢ Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.