With the new collective bargaining agreement yet to be reached and the 2011 NFL season in jeopardy, NFL players -- for the first time in their lives -- aren’t playing football. For many, it is a strange time full of angst and question marks. And for young players especially, having proper guidance is crucial.
That’s where Mark Doman, the senior vice president for True Capital Management (TCM) in New York City, comes into play. TCM represents more than 100 professional athletes, including the Oakland Raiders’ Matt Shaughnessy, San Diego’s Ryan Mathews and Seyi Ajirotutu as well as Atlanta’s Chris Owens, all of whom are entering their second or third years in the league.
While Doman is quick to point out that his clientele listens to him and is financially well advised, he is also very realistic of the challenges that NFL players face, particularly at a time like this. “Three out of every four players go broke,” he says. “Actually, it’s worse than that. The real number is closer to 78 percent."
“[I want] my guys to live like college students for now. The work stoppage is a real opportunity to look at life after football. Players think they're invincible, and money managers don’t do a good enough job of dispelling that invincibility. There aren’t enough people that tell them no.”
As the labor battle continues, Doman has stressed conservative spending to his guys. That means no shady investments that take years and years for ROI, and a more thrifty approach to working out.
Shaughnessy, for instance, has begun working out with a personal trainer … for free. Their professional-athlete status is a distinct advantage that Doman wants them to capitalize on. “The value of saying they will work out with a trainer is huge,” he says. “The reality is, people don’t care about retired athletes as much as they do when they’re playing.”
Owens has gotten onboard as well. “You have to plan for the future,” he adds. “Last year I paid for a personal trainer; this year I’m not. Knowing [my contract] isn’t guaranteed and understanding it is important, which is why I have someone in my corner, managing my money.”
As is the case for many athletes, family plays a vital role, and unfortunately for many, it takes on a highly negative and dangerous connotation as well. Many players come from underprivileged, inner-city backgrounds, so when they finally get the big payday, family becomes an issue.
“Most NFL players are humble and decent guys,” Doman says. “[The danger] can sometimes come from the people closest to you. There is real value in helping family, but it’s all about putting them on a plan.”
This is one of the dilemmas NFL players face, and one that is growing increasingly challenging to assess with the potential of a lockout next season. Bottom line: If there’s no season, there’s no paycheck.
Ajirotutu says, “you have to ask yourself if this makes sense.”
Owens is quick to point out that “people see these million dollar contracts and they think once you’re in the NFL, you’re a millionaire.”
Doman doesn’t disagree, but he also understands the naïveté involved. “[People] don’t understand there are taxes, agent fees and incentive-based deals.”
While some players have used the lockout as an opportunity to work out even harder, Ajirotutu -- who’s done plenty of that as well -- has taken a slightly different road.
“You can’t sit there and do nothing the whole day,” he says. "This job is limited. We’re really privileged.”
With that in mind, the Fresno State finance major will intern for Doman this summer in Manhattan, while maintaining a highly regimented workout schedule. “I’m not going to be playing until I’m 40 years old. I’m setting myself up for later on.”
Whether it’s broadcasting or interning or anything else, Doman has encouraged his other clients to do the same thing. "When the lockout started," he says, "players were no longer covered under the teams' policies. The Players Association was decertified and became a trade association so it can file an antitrust lawsuit versus the NFL. Players don’t have health insurance right now. Everyone [including Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees] are relying on independent COBRA insurance.”
While the lockout was technically lifted on Tuesday, players still aren’t allowed to work out at the practice facilities and many are still doubtful an agreement will be reached in time for next season. On May 16, the court will reconvene for a mediation session. Hall-of-Famer Carl Eller -- who’s been heavily involved with the hearings -- recently told ESPN that he’s “optimistic” a deal will be reached.
Doman and company are preparing for a lockout, but also remain optimistic about next season. Either way, they’ll be prepared.
“It’s only April,” Owens says. “If it’s August, I’m worried.”
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