Professional athletes losing large sums of cash in risky investments or straight up being bilked in shady financial deals is as old as money in sports. However, it’s possible NFL greats such as Ray Lewis and Terrell Owens might’ve been among the 40-some retired and current players that one reporter called “the single largest set of investment losses” in the history of the league at the hands of one adviser.
NFL insider Rand Getlin, on the Sunday edition of 60 Minutes, brought to light a story of $43 million in players’ money lost in a botched investment that began in 2008. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the financial adviser at the center of it all, Jeff Rubin, was registered as part of an NFL Players Association program designed to help protect from fraud. In this case, the program failed, in part because as the 60 Minutes report uncovers, the NFLPA denies all legal liability up front and doesn’t appear to be particularly thorough about keeping an up-to-date directory.
And if you happen to feel it’s just a bunch of rich athletes losing what amounts to pocket change, think again. As long-time Jaguars running back Fred Taylor told CBS correspondent Armen Keteyian, several players had their home foreclosed or short sold as a result of the money that was lost in this venture, while the failure forced others to take out sizable loans they may not be able to pay back.
Ultimately, Taylor and Redskins tight end Vernon Davis took responsibility for their mistakes, adding players have to speak up if they want to avoid having this happen in the future.
“There’s this big pride and ego thing that hinders those guys from sharing their awareness,” Taylor said. “We’re supposed to be macho, strong, you know? Why would we let little puny, you know, nerdy financial advisers or agents take advantage of us?
“I take most of the blame and I think as athletes and players in this union, in the NFL, I think we should take the blame because we can change it,” Davis added. “We can change it. We just gotta wake up.”
While Taylor, Davis and all players do have some responsibility with where their money goes, even if they were misled, the fact the NFLPA more or less sponsors certain financial advisers yet accepts no accountability when something goes wrong is troubling. The whole reason such a program exists is to prevent athletes from falling prey to fraud, which may or may not have been the case here. Regardless, the question that must be asked is to what level these advisers are even being vetted by the union.
Unfortunately, since the NFLPA refused to speak to 60 Minutes, we don’t have the answer.