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Late For Work 5/23: Ray Lewis Explains How Pro Athletes Go Broke


Ray Lewis Explains How Pro Athletes Go Broke

Future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis is focused on helping young athletes gain long-term financial stability. During a 17-year NFL career, he saw firsthand how bad investments and wild spending can destroy players' bank accounts.

His advice: pay attention to "every penny" like they would pay attention to their football training.

That means young 20-year-old athletes must resist the temptation to buy fancy cars and huge mansions as soon as they enter the league without looking at the long-term consequences. Also, it's critical for players looking to invest to find trustworthy advisors and then be a part of every decision.

"These young guys coming into the game, when I sit them down, when they leave me, their mouths are wide open," Lewis told "Because they realize, 'Oh my God, I’m in trouble.'"

The truth is most NFL players come nowhere close to seeing the reported $95 million Lewis earned over nearly two decades. His success is the exception to the rule as one of the greatest to ever play the game. The average NFL career lasts less than three seasons and the average career earnings is about $4 million, but most players earn far less than that, according to FOX.

"Everybody's not signing a $20 million contract. Some guys are coming in and their signing bonus is $2 million," Lewis said. "At a 39.5% [tax bracket], you break that down, you may walk out with $1.4 million. So now you have to start managing that, but before you start managing that, you have to pay back everything you've spent. And it shocks the heck out of people when they racked up charges and its $250,000 already."

A million and a half dollars is nothing to scoff at, but it can quickly disappear. It's hard to sustain after purchasing a luxury car, a dream house, a few expensive gifts for friends and family and then enjoy a couple years of a high-end lifestyle.

Even players that do get the big-time checks and enjoy NFL longevity can get caught up in bad investments when putting blind trust in advisors. Lewis knows that from first-hand experience. In 2013, he was one of 16 NFL players who sued BT&T Bank. The group accused the bank of allowing a dishonest financial advisor to make millions of unauthorized investments.

If players haven't found new revenue streams, they can find themselves in dire situations after retirement without game checks coming in.

"We come into it and we're 100% [focused] on being in shape, making it to training camp, getting a star position, all of these different things," Lewis said. "And we do get a signing bonus of 20-plus million dollars, and what's the first thing you do? You sign a 20-plus million dollar check over to a guy that you're trusting. And once he starts breaking it down to do whatever he's going to do with it, from that point, you no longer have control over your money.

"Realistically, unless you have your own entrepreneur thing going on, unless you have the right investments and the right people around you, to come back and keep up that type of lifestyle is extremely hard. And that's why so many former athletes go broke." 

To help, Lewis now serves as an advisor to YieldStreet, an online investment platform that connects investors to asset-based investments. He appears in a promotional ad for the company (see below), but does not have a stake in YieldStreet and is not a paid endorser, a representative told

The concept of having direct control over individual investments "resonated with me instantly," Lewis said.

King: NFL's Most-Hated Players List Proves We Cover Offseason Football Waaaaay Too Much

Sporting News likely got all the clicks it was looking for with a photo slideshow of the 40-most hated NFL players of all-time.

Lewis was predictably No. 6 on the list, and's Peter King thinks this is an example of what's wrong with offseason NFL coverage. King saw The Newark Star Ledger run a headline Friday that said Odell Beckham Jr. was the most-hated player after just two career seasons and calling it "pure madness."

"I think one of the biggest offseason problems with the NFL is that we cover it too much. Waaaaaaay too much. With really stupid stuff, sometimes," King wrote.

"So I went and looked at the list, which is hilarious for its recency alone. No one on the list of most-hated players in the history of pro football played in the first 50 years of pro football, from 1920 to 1970. But hey, why bother to do the work to find out the villains of the Lambeau Era? Nineteen-year-olds haven't heard of them, so why bother with them? The point is, people are going to click on a list like this, even if it's insipid and stupid. After all, I clicked on it, which is certainly what this site wanted. Hooray for the stupiding-down of our business."

A couple other notes from King's column this morning …

1)      After the Ravens withdrew their replay proposal from tomorrow's owners meetings in Charlotte, King tried find out why they are letting it go. "No word given for it, but likely this happened the way many withdrawals do – because Baltimore thought it had scant chance of passage."

2)      King doesn't see the Ravens being docked a draft pick after they admitted to using pads for five minutes during rookie camp, but he does foresee other punishments. "I would be surprised if the Ravens get docked one of their precious mid-round draft picks; the team has the most Compensatory Picks in the league since the system was instituted in 1994," he wrote. "Usually the punishment for such violations is a diminution of spring practice time and a fine for the offending parties—either the team or the coach or both."

PFF: Veteran Who Could Lose His Job To A Rookie

You can expect speculation on veteran running back Justin Forsett and fourth-round rookie Kenneth Dixon fighting for the starting role for* *most of the offseason.

Of course the Ravens want Dixson to eventually be a three-down back that can line* *up all over the field, but it might be too soon for such lofty projections. Pro Football Focus (PFF) published a column that named five AFC veterans that could lose their jobs to rookies, with Forsett and Dixon being one.

"It would be something of a waste of Dixon's talent if his role was limited to third downs at the next level, but he's undoubtedly most effective in the open field," wrote PFF's John Breitenbach. "Dixon led the FBS with seven receiving touchdowns, and ranked fourth with 16 broken tackles. His shiftiness in space is a sight to behold. Although Dixon does his best work as a receiver, he makes enough plays between the tackles to suggest he can handle a full workload. Dixon is a complete back, who can compete for a starting role right away."

Sheesh. Let the guy get through a couple of OTA practices under his belt before crowning him. He didn't practice in part of rookie minicamp because of a hamstring injury, and we don't know if he will be limited this week. Sure, every Ravens fan would like to see PFF's prediction come true, but let him grow into the role. With Forsett on the roster, there's no need to put unnecessary pressure on him.

"Forsett remains the best option to be the team's starting running back," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "… [A]ssuming Forsett comes back healthy and hungry and has a solid summer, he remains the Ravens most complete back.

"He rarely fumbles, which is something Allen and Taliaferro have struggled with in their young careers. He has very good vision and he doesn't waste much time dancing in the hole or the backfield. He has reliable hands and he knows where to be to provide a safety valve for Joe Flacco in the passing game. And one more thing that has endeared Forsett to Flacco: He is the best pass protector of the Ravens' backs, and that can't be overlooked."

Ravens Expecting Strong Attendance At Voluntary OTAs

With the Ravens' voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) kicking off tomorrow, the team is expecting strong attendance, as usual.

But Zrebiec expects to see several team leaders at the Under Armour Performance Center, even though some can't participate because of injuries.

"Some of the veterans will choose to stay away from the team facility," Zrebiec wrote. "I can't remember the last time I saw Marshal Yanda at an OTA, and Elvis Dumervil hasn't been a regular the past couple of years either. You'll also have a pretty prominent group of veterans, like quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., rush linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Jimmy Smith, who won't participate because they're still recovering from surgeries. But the expectation is that wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Dennis Pitta will be participating, along with some of the veterans acquired this offseason, like Mike Wallace and Eric Weddle."

Quick Hits

Kicked it with 2 of the greatest @TerranceWestBWI @raylewis @EddieGeorge2727 — Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) May 21, 2016

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