by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Former NFL and college football superstar Vince Young has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to the Houston Chronicle, Attorney Brian Kilmer of Houston filed for the player, who has assets between $500,001 and $1 million and liabilities between $1,001,000 and $10 million.
The 30-year old former Titan had been sued for a $1.8 million dollar loan that he incurred during the 2011 NFL lockout. Like a lot of young, talented athletes, Vince thought that his best days were ahead of him. Unfortunately, the NFL can be like a slaughterhouse of black male potential, where young men with big dreams leave with bad knees, severe brain damage and a fifth grade reading level.
According to the Chronicle, Young has sued his former financial adviser, Ronnie Peoples and his former agent, Major Adams II. He says that the loan, granted by Pro Player Funding, was never in his possession.
Young’s assets include five cars, a home, his NFL annuity and a 401 (K). He also has about $200,000 worth of jewelry. In addition, Young has a court-ordered limit on his monthly spending of $25,000.
The day I felt sorry for Vince Young was when he was actually at his peak. He’d just defeated USC in a stunning performance in the national championship game. On the cover of ESPN The Magazine was a picture of Young with the words, “I was born to play quarterback at The University of Texas.”
When we have young black men who truly believe that their mission in life is to engage in servitude for an historically racist institution like The University of Texas, the most profitable football program in the country, we’ve got a problem. Yes, Texas did just hire an African American head coach, but that doesn’t change the business model where athletes and their families aren’t paid. Texas is also the state that makes billions from free labor of African American inmates. This is all a spinoff of slavery.
But putting that point aside, the Vince Young cover on that magazine spoke to the voluntary commodification of himself as nothing more than a physical asset to be used up until he was no good anymore. This reminds me of chickens that are born and raised on farms that are designated to keep them fat and happy until the KFC truck arrives. After the chicken has served its purpose, another one is found to take its place.
This is, unfortunately, the role of too many young black men in America, who’ve been trained to volunteer themselves as commodities for sports teams, entertainment or the prison industrial complex. Everyone ends up making money from us except us. Also, similar to the chicken on the farm who is kept fat and happy, many of our athletes are kept uneducated and without purpose so they can focus on the one thing they are meant to do: Throw a damn football.
Let’s not beat up on Vince Young, since his name might as well be “Young Victim.” From birth, he should have been made aware that he was put on this earth for a purpose greater than entertaining stadiums full of white people. He should also have been taught that education is more important than athletic ability when it comes to obtaining wealth and keeping it. If he has the brilliance to learn complex offensive schemes, he also has the ability to understand the basics of financial literacy.
Vince’s first contract was worth $58 million, with $25.7 million in guaranteed money. Any good team of financial advisers would know how to put that money in a safe place so that Young wouldn’t be broke by the age of 30. In fact, he could spend like a fool and still have enough money to last for the rest of his life.
Before I got my PhD in Finance, my first Finance professor was my late grandmother Felicia. I watched this unmarried woman obtain complete financial security from an income of no more than $30,000 per year. The most valuable lesson I learned from my grandmother before she died is that no matter how much or how little money you have in your possession, an ignorant attitude toward spending is eventually going to land you in the poorhouse. So, you can imagine how I felt when I read the story about Vince flying on a major airline and trying to buy every single seat on the plane. I bet he wishes he had some of that money back right now.
Finally, we must spread the word about the myth of professional football; it’s just not what it’s cracked up to be. For every athlete who makes millions and lives a great life, there are far more who end up broke, with busted up bodies, short careers, and so much brain damage that they can’t even remember the names of their own children.
Vince’s story is a lesson for all of us.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of the lecture series, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.