10 Surprising Bankrupt Athletes


Johnny Unitas

A statue of Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas sits outside the Baltimore Ravens' Stadium in Baltimore, Md. Fans touch it for luck Jerry Driendl/Getty Images
A statue of Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas sits outside the Baltimore Ravens' Stadium in Baltimore, Md. Fans touch it for luck Jerry Driendl/Getty Images

Johnny Unitas is arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL. During his 18 years as a pro, "Mr. Clutch" won three NFL titles for the Baltimore Colts, was named NFL Player of the Year three times, and attended 10 Pro Bowls [source: Pro Football Hall of Fame]. His record of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass (47) stood for 52 years until 2012 [source: ESPN.com].

Unitas is worshipped as a minor deity in Baltimore, where fans touch the late quarterback's statue for good luck outside the Baltimore Ravens' stadium. But for all of Unitas' heroics on the field, he often ended up on the losing end of post-football business deals. Several of his ventures went belly up, including a restaurant, a bowling alley and an air shipping company [source: The Washington Times].

Unitas and his second wife filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991 after they were unable to pay back business loans for the purchase of a company that manufactured circuit boards [source: Singletary]. Unitas was still able to capitalize on his famous name with a merchandising and licensing company called Unitas Management. But after the football legend's untimely death from a heart attack in 2002, members of his family fought in court for control of the company, which also went bankrupt in 2004 [source: The Washington Times].

Author's Note: 10 Surprising Bankrupt Athletes

To be honest, I don't find it remotely surprising that so many athletes go broke within just a few years of retirement. Think about it. Due to injuries and exceptional competition, the average professional football or basketball career is a blink of an eye. It's the rare exception that a player performs at the top of his or her game for a decade or more. Even though pro athlete paychecks are high, so is the cost of the lifestyle. When everyone around you drives a Bentley and lives in a 30,000-square-foot mansion, it takes serious resolve to live modestly and save for the future. Without money in the bank, that future is bleak for an athlete who was always pressured to put sports first and education second. The athletes certainly share a portion of the blame, but I also fault a college athletic system that cashes in millions from these students without ensuring their preparation for life after sports.

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