I have never been a fan of Terrell Owens. I say this with no spite, anger, or personal animosity toward the man. Instead, I’ve reached my conclusion based on nothing more than observation and fact. My first exposure to Owens was during his now infamous midfield touchdown celebration at Cowboys Stadium. At the time (i.e. prior to YouTube), it was the most selfish act of immaturity and poor sportsmanship I had seen. In his subsequent moves to the Eagles, the Cowboys, his cup of coffee with the Bills, the Bengals, and lest we not forget the Allen Wranglers, neither Owens on the field performance nor off the field shenanigans gave me reason to respect him as an athlete or a man.
On May 8, 2012, Owens took his carnival act to the set of the Dr. Phil Show where he was confronted by three women, each alleging he fathered their child and was delinquent in paying child support. As the show progressed, a tearful Owens confessed had fathered four children with four different women, owed $20,000, $13,400, $11,200, and $5,000 respectively in monthly child support payments, and was nearly broke after having poorly invested or squandered almost all of the $80 million he earned during his professional career.
For those of us who follow professional sports with any degree of regularity, Owens story isn’t new. In fact, for us cynics, Owens situation does nothing more than make him an honorable mention for the NFL Frequent Impregnator Team. Should you have forgotten the starting line up allow me to refresh your memory. Team captain, Travis Henry, once a stand out running back for the Buffalo Bills, has sired eleven children with ten different women. Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is believed to have fathered nine children by eight women in six different states. Cromartie’s child support obligations became such a financial burden the Jets gave him a $500,000 advance on his new contract. Ray Lewis is rumored to have six children with four different women but you didn’t hear that from me. I want to live. Former Lions wide out, Charles Rogers allegedly has five children by four women, none of which were conceived on a Sunday or Monday. I know this because I watched a lot of NFC North football during Roger’s playing days and not once did I see him produce on Sunday afternoon or Monday night. (Hey, hey!)
NFL athletes are not alone when it comes to finding themselves in these circumstances. Similar examples can be easily found throughout the world of sports. Professional boxer Evander Holyfield, for instance, has 42 wins, 10 losses, 2 draws, 1 and ½ ears, and 11 children (9 illegitimate). Former NBA player and current Milwaukee Bucks coach, Scott Skiles, is thought to have six illegitimate children. MLB journeyman Vlad Guerrero has four kids by four women.
Moral judgments aside, having a child is expensive. Having multiple children with multiple partners is crazy expensive. In State of Illinois, the minimum child support payment for one child is 20% of the supporting parent’s net income. Two children is 28%. Three children is 32%. Four kids equals 40%, 5 kids is 45%, and 6 or more children is 50%. Again, these percentages are the minimum and rarely the court ordered norm, especially for a professional athlete. Regardless if you’re making $10.5 million a season or $10.50 an hour, child support obligations can create a substantial financial burden no matter the lifestyle.
Couple these financial demands with bad investments, frivolous spending, predatory friends/family members, and ill-qualified “financial advisors” and it is no wonder Sports Illustrated found that 78% of NFL players are bankrupt or insolvent two years after they are out of the league.
There is no better illustration of this point than former Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister. In 2004, McAlister signed a seven-year, $55 million dollar contract extension. Unemployed since 2009, today McAlister lives in his parent’s home unable to financially support himself, let alone pay the $11,000 monthly child support obligation to his ex-wife.
While the repeated acts of bad judgment by Owens, Henry, Cromartie, and others grab the headlines, let us not allow the circumstances of a few taint our perception of the whole. For a vast majority of professional football players, the typical talk around an NFL locker room is in many ways no different than the typical talk around the office coffee machine. Fortunately for us desk jockeys, Bob from Accounting shows up to work in a pair of khakis and tie, not an ill-fitting bath towel and flip-flops.
As long as there is someone to listen, fathers in both work environments will boast to one another about their son’s little league team, their daughter’s ballet recital, or their baby’s most recent developmental milestone. They will conspire with each other how to scare 15 year old boys away from their 13 year old daughters, brain storm on ways to still be “cool” in the eyes of their teenaged sons, and, most importantly, show up to work each day in an effort to provide for their children out of sense of personal responsibility and love, not because a television psychologist says so.
Flip Stricland will be a monthly contributor to GiR, and is a professional football meteorologist.