Athletes Quick To Go Broke

In it's current issue, Sports Illustrated takes a look at how many professional athletes go bankrupt shortly after leaving the game. Also, the story of Latina entrepreneurs seizing the business opportunities presented by the economic recession is featured in the latest issue of Latina magazine. Pablo Torre, of Sports Illustrated and Angie Romero, of Latina magazine, offer the scoop.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for our monthly visit with our Magazine Mavens. That's when we talk with the editors and reporters at some of our favorite magazines and try to get the stories behind the stories that grace the pages of the current issues.

Joining us today are Angie Romero - she is entertainment editor at Latina Magazine - and Pablo Torre. He's a reporter for Sports Illustrated. Welcome to you both. Thanks for joining us.

Ms. ANGIE ROMERO (Entertainment Editor, Latina Magazine): Thank you.

Mr. PABLO TORRE (Reporter, Sports Illustrated): Anytime.

MARTIN: Pablo, let me start with you. In the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, you say that athletes from the country's three biggest and most profitable leagues - the NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball - are suffering from a financial pandemic.

Your reporting suggests that - just a couple of stats, here - by the time they've been retired for two years, almost 90 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress. Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60 percent of former NBA players are broke. What on earth is going on here?

Mr. TORRE: It is a pandemic. I mean, I wish I could say I was overstating that for these guys' sake, but it's really a very widespread problem that has its roots in a couple of similar causes, which we outline.

Sort of - I do an anatomy of the reasons in the magazine. But I guess the basic reason is that the proper analogue for a pro athlete these days is not a white-collar executive but a lottery winner, somebody who's not familiar with financial windfall, who isn't equipped to handle millions of dollars coming in their laps on one day when they're 22 years old.

Oftentimes, these guys just aren't sure what to do, and when they do make decisions, they oftentimes unfortunately make the wrong ones.

MARTIN: One of the financial experts whom you interview in the piece says that chronic over-allocation into real estate - one cause. That makes sense. You know, you hear this all the time from kids who are coming up through the pros. They say, what's the first thing you want to do? Buy my mom a house. So you could get that.

But bad private equity is their number-one problem? What does that mean?

Mr. TORRE: Yes. It means private investments. Basically, these guys tend to get deals from friends, from friends of friends of friends, and they favor this idea of tangibility as credibility, which means that they favor the real-estate deals, the car wash, the record label, the nightclub, the T-shirt company.

You know, you go on and on. These guys favor things they can wrap their hands around because it's hard to wrap your mind around, for example, public securities, like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.

MARTIN: Well, I have to tell you, right now a lot of us aren't feeling so great about our securities and things we can't see and touch. So…

Mr. TORRE: I'm not feeling too great myself, either.

MARTIN: I did want to ask, though, and it's a difficult question. A lot of the people whom you profile are black and Latino. Are athletes of color particularly vulnerable?

Mr. TORRE: You know, that's a question that I posed to everybody, and I interviewed upwards of 40 people for this story over a period of months. And there is some overlap. But I think the bigger issue is socioeconomics.

There are plenty of white athletes, also, who we discuss, who come from backgrounds where they don't have that equipment and that knowledge. Unfortunately, due to the, you know, the distribution of wealth in the country, race obviously overlaps.

I'm not going to say it's causal yet. I will say it's correlated. But I will say that yes, I mean, there are certain cultural factors that are tied in with socioeconomics and makes it impossible to ignore.

MARTIN: Angie, let me bring you into the conversation. Latina has a much different story about personal financial management. The magazine often focuses on personal finance.

This month, the magazine is telling readers that this may be the best time to become your own boss. I think a lot of people will find that counterintuitive, given the difficult economic conditions in this country. Why do you all say that?

Ms. ROMERO: Why now, right? That's the obvious question. Well, for one, adversity actually fuels your energy and your creativity, and it can make you step out and do things that you never thought you could or you just talked about doing in an abstract way.

So what we put together was a package called entrepreneurial chic, and it's a step-by-step guide to join the more than half a million Latina entrepreneurs who are already their own bosses. They're in control of their own fabulous careers.

MARTIN: Let's switch gears for a minute and talk about the cover stories. Pablo, the current Sports Illustrated has its March Madness cover, with dozens of college basketball players in both the men's and the women's game. You've also been covering the tournament. Any surprises so far?

Mr. TORRE: You know, the tournament's been pretty tame so far. I think the stars are acting as the stars should. I think, actually, 12 of the top seeds have advanced as they've expected to, just based on their power-ranked statuses. So, yeah, I mean, not too surprising.

MARTIN: Angie, your cover story this month focuses on a young actress, the cutie.

Ms. ROMERO: Selena Gomez.

MARTIN: Selena Gomez. Those of you with children of a certain age, you would know Selena as Alex Russo on Disney Channel's "The Wizards of Waverly Place." I have just a little clip. Here it is.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Wizards of Waverly Place)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1:Look my mission, should I choose to accept it, and I do…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: …is to get you to give permission to Harper to write those books.

Ms. SELENA GOMEZ (Actor): (As Alex Russo) You can't give permission to someone you can't trust, and I obviously can't trust her because she went ahead and wrote the books without my permission to become rich and famous.

Unidentified Man #1: Look, okay, I've read the books, and they're really good. They're not just about us as wizards. They're mainly about your friendship with Harper.

Ms. GOMEZ: (As Russo) Well, I don't care about our friendship. I told her secrets, and she betrayed me, so our friendship's over.

MARTIN: And, of course, people who watch the program know that Selena's, you know, she's the pesky middle sister who's always getting her way because, you know, she's got dad wrapped around her little finger.

Is there anything that your readers learn about her in the piece that would surprise them?

Ms. ROMERO: Yes. She's interesting on a few different levels, I have to say, after you read the story. For one, she's only 16, and she's Latina - Mexican and Italian - and she's from Texas.

So she represents so many of our readers. There's the young girls who don't necessarily grow up speaking Spanish and who are not sure whether it's cool to be Latino or whether they should even make an effort to understand their parents' or grandparents' culture better.

So embracing her culture came only recently to Selena, and it was more of a subtle realization than it was, like, this grand epiphany.

MARTIN: And also, Angie, I have to say that this month's Latina highlights another young actor. His name is - help me - Algenis…

Ms. ROMERO: Algenis Perez Soto.

MARTIN: …Perez Soto. He stars in the new film "Sugar." It's a movie about baseball in his native Dominican Republic. And this is interesting because this is a subject very much in the news right now about whether these young Dominican players are treated fairly.

Mr. TORRE: Indeed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Can you tell us a little bit more about the film and about the actor who plays in it?

Ms. ROMERO: Absolutely. "Sugar" is just one of those unforgettable indie movies, and it tells the story of a young player. His name is Miguel Azucar -which means sugar - Santos. You know, he's from the Dominican Republic, and he's invited to come play in the U.S. because he throws this wicked knuckle curveball - which I'm not really sure what that means, but I know you do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Pablo will tell you later.

Ms. ROMERO: Pablo will tell me.

Mr. TORRE: I can explain it.

Ms. ROMERO: So he's taken in by this religious family in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa, and he really struggles, you know, not only with the language but with loneliness and self doubt. You know, am I really good enough? Do I belong in this country?

And at one point, he even experiments with steroids, you know, and as we all know, that's not a good idea.

MARTIN: Well evidently, we don't all know.

Mr. TORRE: Like another Dominican named Alex Rodriguez.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ROMERO: Exactly.

MARTIN: So it's a very interesting movie. So we're glad you gave us a sneak peek in the pages of Latina.

Before I let you go, the same question I always end the Mavens with - so unfair, going to ask it anyway: What's your favorite article in this month's magazine? Angie, why don't you start?

Ms. ROMERO: I really have to say "The Entrepreneurial Chic." It's something that I'm going to pull out. I'm going to put it on my fridge for the day that I really have the courage to step out and, you know, take ownership of my destiny and my career. And I'm certainly to put on all my girlfriends and my family, the women in my family onto it because it's really a step-by-step, practically, virtually pitfall-proof guide.

MARTIN: Pablo, I need to ask you - before I ask you your favorite article in this month's issue - what reaction have you gotten to the article about the finances of these players? I think a lot of people would be shocked by this.

Mr. TORRE: Yeah, there's definitely a certain degree of shock. - I mean, obviously on the Internet, if you look at the responses that it's gaining on blogs, for example, there's a lot of the invective that comes along with the multimillionaire losing his money. But I think people are genuinely interested.

MARTIN: And your favorite article in this month's Sports Illustrated?

Mr. TORRE: You know, as much as I'd love to toot my own horn, I think the article preceding it. It's a feature on Lamar Odom, the Lakers star, by Lee Jenkins, my colleague. And it's a good pair to fit with this article.

Lamar Odom is a guy who had a terrible upbringing, terrible path through the NBA to stardom now with the Lakers. And he's actually - in the story, the irony is that he's now investing in restaurants and investing in some of these private deals. And you just kind of hope it all works out and just doesn't become another problem he'll have to overcome, as he has so many times during his career already.

MARTIN: Pablo Torre is a reporter at Sports Illustrated. Angie Romero is entertainment editor at Latina magazine. They were both kind enough to join us from our New York bureau. Thank you both so much.

Ms. ROMERO: Thank you.

Mr. TORRE: Thanks.

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