Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Warren Sapp – what’s wrong with the National Football League

Warren Sapp represents everything that is wrong with today’s professional athlete. He is today what he has always been, an arrogant, self-righteous man whose sense of entitlement suggests he believes he is above the law.

Selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 12th overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft, Sapp was paid close to $63 million during his 12 year NFL career. Since his retirement he has worked for the NFL Network (his contract ends on August 31, 2012). He was paid $540,000 per year as an analyst at the NFL Network. On April 4, 2012 Sapp declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy, according to some media reports to avoid going to jail.

"Do you think I wanted to declare bankruptcy?'' Sapp told the Tampa Times in April. "Do you think if there was any other way possible I would have done it? It was either this or go to jail. Those were my choices.''

Sapp believes his financial troubles are tied to a failed construction project in Hollywood, Florida. According to published reports, “Sapp's $6.45 million in assets includes 240 pairs of Jordan athletic shoes worth almost $6,500, a $2,250 watch and a lion skin rug worth $1,200. He also reported losing his 2002 Super Bowl ring with the Bucs and his 1991 national championship ring from the University of Miami.”

The court documents were filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Fort Lauderdale on March 30. Sapp's average monthly income is $115,881, according to the filings, and includes $45,000 for a final contract payment with Showtime, $48,000 for an appearance with CCA Sports and $18,675 as an advance for a book deal.

Jamal Lewis who earned more than $41 million in his 9-year NFL career declared bankruptcy last week.
It would seem impossible to the most football fans how Sapp and Lewis could burn through tens of millions of dollars in so short a time.

Jack Brewer a former Giants/Vikings/Cardinals/Eagles player, who attended Harvard Business School while still in the NFL. He went on to work as a private wealth manager at Merrill Lynch, post-NFL and later started his own firm, a sports marketing company has some of the answers as to why things go so wrong for most NFL players.

“As a player, I wanted as much of the revenue as possible, given the fact that I was playing a game that cuts your total life expectancy to 52 years old. This is the harsh reality of playing the most violent team sport on the planet.

“But the real tragedy is the fact that over 80 percent of the players are bankrupt shortly after taking their last snap.” Brewer wrote in an op-ed piece for CNBC.

Brewer a five year NFL veteran always saw the forest for the trees, focused his NFL career on creating a life after football.

“Let’s be honest, most football players are from lower economic groups and communities, football is a
violent sport, the most violent sport today.”

Brewer noted that football players are paid millions of dollars over the four months of the National Football League season, believes it might help players if their contracts were paid over 12 and not four months.

“By simply changing the way that young, unvested players — 4 years in the NFL or less — get paid, the league would dramatically decrease the number of players who end up in embarrassing and detrimental financial situations.

“NFL players are paid over a four-month period, which causes obvious budgeting issues and never really affords these young professionals the opportunity to learn fiscal responsibility. You hear horror stories about bad financial advisors and agents stealing from athletes all the time.

“The fact of the matter is, the way players are paid adds more financial turmoil than the bad advisors or agents.

“If you were to pay young, highly qualified executives in any industry their salaries over a four-month period, they would probably have trouble budgeting their money. Players should have no choice but to take their paychecks and bonuses over a 12-month period. They should also have the option to defer a portion of their compensation, given their short career spans and young retirement ages. The current system is financial suicide.”

CBS and Showtime announced Friday Sapp would no longer be a part of "Inside the NFL". His current NFL Network contract expires in August. The chances of Sapp’s NFL Network being renewed -- slim and none and as the saying goes, “slim has left the building”.

The NFL owns the NFL Network. On March 21 the day NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down his Bountygate ruling Sapp told Pro Football Talk: “My source that was close to the situation informed me that [name omitted] is the one that was the snitch initially, I trust my source unequivocally. …I did not call anybody at the league and I did not receive any information from the league. ...

“That's the information that I got and I trust my source. I was given that information and I went with it, by a reliable source.”

Sapp then went on Twitter and named former Saint Jeremy Shockey as the former Saint who contacted the
NFL about the Saints bountygate program.

There is no proof that Shockey was the “whistle blower”. What made Sapp’s allegation even more shocking, while Sapp and Shockey never played together, both played college football at the University of Miami. Offering unsubstantiated reports on Bountygate was likely the final nail in Sapp’s NFL Network coffin. However it was not the only time he embarrassed his employer.

On February 7, 2010 Sapp was arrested in South Florida and charged with domestic battery. Sapp was in Florida to appear as an analyst for the NFL Network's coverage of Super Bowl XLIV, but following the arrest an NFL Network spokesman said Sapp would not appear. On March 24, the charges against Sapp were dropped.

What message does Warren Sapp send out about a National Football League player? In fairness to Sapp none of us (other than professional athletes) can understand the lifestyle of a professional athlete and how they deal with the millions of dollars they are paid. Sapp wasn’t the first and won’t be the last NFL player to lose the tens of millions of dollars. As Jack Brewer pointed out, the system is set up for the players to fail.

Sapp however has to be held accountable for “outing” Jeremy Shockey. Sapp works for the National Football League. Sapp should have understood that he needed to respect the process and not dive into Bountygate. Embarrassing the NFL hurt Sapp, and likely served as an opportunity to remind the NFL about what took place at Super Bowl XLIV in Miami.

Warren Sapp has lost a fortune and now is going to lose a job that paid him more than $500,000 annually. He’s losing his job because it appears he lacks “common sense.” The NFL Network has to fire Warren Sapp; he represents too much risk and not enough of a reward.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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