For former NFL player Adewale Ogunleye, watching someone, let alone athletes, struggle to manage money boils him to the core.
So, he is doing something about it.
Knowing that the average NFL player’s career is less than four years, Ogunleye’s “lightbulb” moment came in his second year in the league. That’s when he said a teammate who was a top pick in that year’s draft asked him for a loan.
“I’m looking at this guy thinking, ‘I’m not in the draft.’ I only had rookie minimum wage and you’re asking me for a loan? And he was actually in a position where he could give them a loan. And that’s where I realized there was a problem,” Ogunleye, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, told USA TODAY Sports.
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Walter Stith, a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports and Entertainment division, says there’s a simple reason to see wealth grow, and it’s based on the average time an athlete has to generate income in a chosen sport.
The average career length for athletes in each of North America’s four major sports is less than four years.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a temptation when it comes to disappearing wealth. I’d say it’s more of an obligation,” said Stith, a former NFL and CFL player. “Most of these athletes feel like they’re obligated to help friends and family and that creates a problem. Financial education as a whole needs to be a priority in our educational system, especially when dealing with Black wealth and entrepreneurship.” “.
That’s one of the reasons Ogunleye partnered with UBS and its Athletes and Artists segment, which helps their peers and underserved communities become financially savvy.
Its partnerships, for example with the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, can help educate students enrolled in the league’s 14 schools.
UBS and SIAC have announced a virtual series, “ELEVATE! Creating and Preserving Black Wealth,” designed to introduce Black people to job opportunities in the financial industry while providing tools to become more proficient in money management.
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In those sessions, which will be led by Ogunleye, students who are enrolled in SIAC institutions can discuss with leading experts and former athletes ways to build wealth and pass it on to future generations.
Former NBA player Allan Houston and SIAC Commissioner Greg Moore are part of the discussions, which have three more sessions scheduled for the spring semester.
Skills taught include building a strong financial foundation by developing smart habits, learning how to build, maintain, and protect your credit score, and preparing for life after college with courses on taxes, home ownership, and investment in 401(k) plans.
Manage NFL wealth for a new career
Ogunleye, the son of Nigerian parents, grew up in the Staten Island, New York, projects, which he said provided the fuel for his NFL career.
In 2004, after totaling a career-high 15 sacks, he was traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Chicago Bears. Ogunleye signed a six-deal deal worth $34 million and pocketed $15 million in signing bonuses.
The lessons he learned managing his NFL millions propelled him into a second career in the financial world, and he is now the head of sports and entertainment at UBS.
One of his first orders of business was to contact SIAC Commissioner Moore.
Headquartered in Atlanta, SIAC is comprised primarily of NCAA Division II-competing Historically Black colleges and universities, with campuses stretching from Ohio to Georgia.
“Personally, I think income inequality is an existential threat,” Moore said. “Some of our HBCUs are located in some of the most economically underserved and disconnected communities in the country.”
Some communities where those schools are located have poverty rates well above the national average, which is 11.4%.. Tuskegee, Alabama (University of Tuskegee) has a poverty rate of 28%; Albany, Georgia (Albany State University) is at 31%, while Fort Valley, Georgia (Fort Valley State University) is among the worst, where 42% of the population lives in poverty.
‘The talent of tomorrow’
One way SIAC is advancing financial education is through a program called Tomorrow’s Talent, which aims to help students gain summer internship opportunities and careers at UBS.
Moore also reached out to Houston, who retired in 2005 after playing 12 seasons, to gauge his interest in “ELEVATE,” which is the virtual event series aimed at providing financial wellness insights.
Moore thought it would be crucial for Houston, now in a leadership role as special assistant to the general manager of the New York Knicks, to share his story and perspective on his career. He also wanted Houston to talk about his mindset as an entrepreneur and as someone who makes a social impact with his FISLL organization. (Faith, Integrity, Sacrifice, Leadership and Legacy).
Houston said the idea of preparing financially for the next step was important to him, as he learned about money management from his father, who was an assistant coach at Louisville (and later the first African-American basketball coach at Tennessee), and his mother, a director of financial aid in Louisville and, at the same time, ran a logistics and transportation company.
“When you can share these stories and let students know, and you can give them the right information, access and opportunity, they can really create so much more than we can imagine,” said Houston, who signed nearly $120 million in contracts for the NBA. “It’s just that they have to have the tools, the vision and the execution strategy.”
Ogunleye, Moore, and Houston agree that there is a misconception about the term “financial literacy,” saying that having a lot of money is not a prerequisite for managing money.
Changing the face of the financial services industry, not only by increasing the diversity of those who work in the field, but also by building and sustaining a pipeline of talent, is one of the main goals of the association.
“You don’t just budget your money, you budget your lifestyle,” Houston said. “The fundamental financial education is just understanding and looking at what you have versus what you really need, what you can save on, and start building a lifestyle habit.”