*ESPN kicks off a new season of its acclaimed documentary series “30 for 30” tonight with the 90-minute film “Broke,” which chronicles several athletes – including former Atlanta Falcons receiver Andre Rison – as examples of just how easy it is to squander millions of dollars.
“I think that I was shocked how easy it actually is to go broke, how easy it is to generate this kind of revenue and then lose it,” the film’s director Billy Corben told us during interviews for the film in August. “And I think that people will be very surprised when they see the movie as well.”
As the film lays out, these athletes are spending all of their money on either bad investments, freeloading family and friends, chronic medical problems, and – of course – the need to flaunt it with extravagant purchases. In a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, it was reported that 60 percent of NBA players go broke within five years of retirement. For 78 percent of NFL players, it takes only three years.
Corben said his film plays out as a how to guide on going broke, with one of the segments dealing with unscrupulous money managers and agents.
“What happens is that athletes are in a rare position where their salaries are published in the newspaper, on the Internet every week. And the second that you are put in that position, you have a target on your back,” Corben said. “So not only do they have to look out for the people coming in from the outside, but also within their own families, their circles of friends.
“Whether it’s winning the lottery, an inheritance, or a signing bonus, you have people who are going from zero to millions of dollars overnight and at a very young age. And we all know that academics aren’t exactly stressed for student athletes, so they don’t tend to be kind of scholarly or well informed in the ways of money management and investments. And try to tell a 22 year old anyway at the peak of his physical powers and his ego that he can’t spend any of the money he’s making now because he has to worry about when he’s not making any money anymore.”
In addition to Rison, Corben, who also directed the “30 for 30” films “The U” and “Cocaine Cowboys,” also interviews retired NFL stars Leon Searcy, Keith McCants and Bernie Kosar. In fact, Corben was interviewing ex-University of Miami quarterback Kosar for “The U” when three weeks later, it was reported that he had declared bankruptcy.
“And this was a guy who not only spent ten years playing in the NFL, but famously made more money as a businessman in his years after he was in the pros, and it was quite a shock,” said Corben. “And right around the same time in 2009, Pablo Torre wrote his Sports Illustrated story about how athletes go broke. And I think conventional wisdom is they spend a lot of money on stupid sh*t, to be perfectly frank. And, spoiler alert, they spend their money on a lot of stupid sh*t.
Below, Corben goes into detail about the film’s segment on Andre Rison and the ex-player’s various trials and tribulations that led to financial ruin. The director says Rison “speaks very candidly about them in the movie but also seems to be in a very real state of denial as well.” Listen below.
“Broke” airs at 8 p.m. tonight on ESPN. Watch the trailer below.