ESPN’s “Broke” Shows that Athletes Need Team of Advisors

Billy Corben’s Broke, the latest film in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, explores the issue of athletes finding themselves in financial ruin following their playing careers.  There are numerous lessons to draw from this film, but I locked in on one particular issue.

One of the primary themes of the film was that athletes had no idea where their money was going.  In some cases agents, many who probably had power of attorney for their client, handled all of the finances.  The financial advisors interviewed discussed the inherent problems with this arrangement and  the importance of engaging a reputable team of advisors, including a financial advisor and accountant.  My immediate thought (besides agreeing with that point) was that lawyers should be included in that group.

More than once I’ve heard agents say something to the effect of “I’ve negotiated so many contracts I could be a lawyer.”  Although agents may be skilled negoitators, they may not fully understand the terms of the contract, or perhaps more importantly, what is missing from the contract.

Although some agents may have law degrees, athletes should use independent legal counsel.  Agents typically have a conflict of interest in acting as agent and attorney, as the agent is paid on a commission basis.  An attorney who has no financial stake in whether an athlete signs a particular agreement can offer unbiased advice to the athlete and can play an important role on a team of professional advisors.


  1. Brian Gambale says:

    I have not seen the film so I apologize if this question is addressed within it, but I was just curious if the Players’ Associations within these sports play any role in this process? Can the NFLPA, for instance, play a more active role in directly handling players’ finances instead of their agents? I can’t imagine there would be a conflict of interest if that was the case, though I could be wrong.

  2. Dan Fitzgerald says:

    Brian, that’s a good question. There was a lot of talk about the NFLPA and its efforts to regulate financial advisors. Darren Rovell made the case that the NFLPA hadn’t been successful weeding out corrupt advisors. My understanding is that the NFLPA has a certification program and also makes an effort to educate the players on these issues. To have a union directly handle its members finances might not be a conflict, but that goes beyond the job of a union.


  1. […] Andrew Brandt of, drawing on his own experiences with the Green Bay Packers, writes about the problems that some professional athletes experience dealing with family.  It’s a great read.  It also references and reminds me of ESPN’s 30 for 30 film “Broke.” […]

  2. […] I briefly covered this issue in a post entitled ESPN’s “Broke” Shows that Athletes Need Team of Advisors. […]

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