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April 13, 2012 @ 10:09 am
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PR REACTS: The Strange Delight In Sapp's Financial Failure

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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While most true Bucs fans aren't happy to see former Buccaneers great Warren Sapp file for bankruptcy recently, there is a segment of those who have seemed to relish in the perceived squandering of Sapp's $60 million in career earnings. In this PR REACTS feature Mark Cook shares his thoughts on the subject.
Reports last week came out that former Buccaneers great and future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp had recently filed for bankruptcy despite earning approximately $60 million dollars during his NFL playing career.

Sapp recently spoke to the Tampa Bay Times about how it all came crashing down.

Source: Gary Shelton Tampa Bay Times
Despite his financial problems, despite the headlines about bankruptcy filing, despite all the jokes about 240 pairs of sneakers and a large painting of a naked woman in his bedroom, Sapp still sounded positive Thursday as he attempted to explain his troubles in detail for the first time

"Do you think I wanted to declare bankruptcy?'' Sapp said. "Do you think if there was any other way possible I would have done it? It was either this or go to jail. Those were my choices.''

In the days since Sapp, 39, filed for bankruptcy with $6.7 million worth of debt, he has once again become a polarizing figure in Tampa Bay. Sapp was a great player as the Bucs turned from one of the worst franchises in the NFL to one of the best, but a lot of people seem to remember a lot of stories about how rude he could be in public.

The trouble started, he said, with the wrong construction deal at the wrong time. By the time it went bad, most of Sapp's money was gone.

The idea was to build low-income housing in Fort Pierce in 2005. Sapp said the original agreement was the houses would not be built until a buyer had been approved for a mortgage, but one of his partners approved the construction of three houses so there would be something to market. But 2005 was not a good time for real estate, and the houses went unsold.

"It didn't go well,'' said Sapp, who has a condo in Hollywood, Fla. "At the end of the day, we owed them a million dollars, and the two numb- - - - put their heads in the sand. They went after me.''

Because of the debt, Sapp's earnings from the NFL Network — 100 percent, he said — were garnished for 11 months. That meant his bills went unpaid, causing the debt spiral that led to his Chapter 7 filing.
"You tell me what to do,'' Sapp said. "Do you keep working without a check? If you don't pay your child support, you go to jail. This wasn't something I wanted to do. This was something I had to do.''

Despite the debt, despite the criticism, Sapp said he is positive.

"This is just another situation I have to get myself out of,'' he said. "I grew up without cable and without air conditioning. Things aren't that bad yet
"This isn't as tough a situation as when I came out of college, and there were reports of seven positive drug tests, and I was a 21-year-old man. I was coming to the worst franchise in pro football, and Sam Wyche was running a five-ring circus, and my teammates were calling me 'super-rook' because they didn't want me here. You stick a diamond in a pile of s- - - and it's still a diamond.

"If there is air in my lungs, I'll find a way.''

PR REACTS – Cook’s Take:
While PewterReport.com debated on whether to report on this topic at all – as it gets away from football – the fact is, it has dominated talk radio and television news both locally and nationally, and with Sapp recently publicly addressing his issues, here is my take on the situation.

First of all let’s be frank – Sapp was no joy cover in the locker room. Despite his happy go-lucky persona we see on the NFL Network and on Inside the NFL, Sapp was one of the toughest guys we have ever interviewed. When I wrote for Pewter Report (formerly Buccaneer Magazine) back in the mid to late 90’s, we always flipped a coin to see who the “lucky” one was who got the honor to stand in front of Sapp’s locker holding the microphone.

Sitting in a chair, with a towel draped across on the carpet in front of him where he spit his snuff, Sapp was as an intimidating figure in the locker room as he was when he lined up for three hours each Sunday afternoon. At times, Sapp was gregarious, funny, and a big teddy bear. But all it took was one question he didn’t like and he would undress a reporter in a matter of minutes. Flushed with embarrassment in most cases, the reporter would stumble and fumble with his words, as Sapp appeared to silently revel in the reporter’s reddening cheeks.

With that said, should fans, critics, or even those who took Sapp’s abuse in the media rejoice in another’s misery? Apparently from the comments on many internet boards or in the phone calls to sports radio talk shows, many have taken that route, which is unfortunate.

While Sapp will never be confused with the likable personalities of former Bucs Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn or Mike Alstott, his on the field play, work ethic or commitment to the teams he played for has never been questioned. Perhaps the Buccaneers are still searching for that first Lombardi Trophy without Sapp. In fact arguably he was just as, or maybe even more important, in the turnaround of a terrible franchise than any other Buccaneers player – even those who were much more media and community friendly.

Sapp’s road from rags to riches, and now back to rags is a sad tale seen much to often in professional sports. Any of use would gladly take just a couple of Sapp’s millions and feel we could live comfortably for the rest of our lives. And many of us could. But obviously there is an issue in professional sports where somewhere along the way the message to prepare for the future has been lost.

Sports agent Russell Hicks spoke to PewterReport.com this week about the problem and says many agents preach the message from the time they first meet their client until the player retires. Some get the message, while others do not.

“I wish I could say yes it will get better but I’m not sure,” Hicks said. “We really spend a lot of time working with our clients explaining the pitfalls that come up and how to try and avoid them but some players just don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to hear the stats of the percentage of players who end up broke; they don’t want to hear about saving money and preparing for the future.

“One of the big thing we try to do is get our guys to make sure they graduate. Even if they are in the NFL currently, we try and get them to finish their education. I tell them you can’t even coach a high school football team without a college degree these days. So even if the money dries up and you didn’t do a good job of planning for the future, at least you have your education to fall back on.

“But there are some guys who are starting to see it, Hicks went on to explain. “As bad as it is for Warren or Terrell (Owens) to go through it, maybe it will get the attention of the young players in the league. But I can’t say for sure. My Dad was not an educated man at all, but was very smart. And he used to say all the time, ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.’ I think about that often when I hear about these things.”

Of course the serious sports fans can name many athletes who have gone broke shortly after their playing careers were over. Mike Tyson, Marion Jones, Evander Holyfield, and Lawrence Taylor are just a few names that have been in the news the last few years that were hampered with money woes. But when taking a look at this story a few other names popped up, other than professional athletes, who have filed bankruptcy.

Entrepreneur Donald Trump has filed for bankruptcy not once, not twice but four times in his life. Like a cat with nine lives Trump escapes and seems to come back stronger.

Automaker Henry Ford filed for bankruptcy in 1901 before finally getting his business model correct. Today no one questions Ford’s integrity.

Walt Disney started a company named Laugh-O-Gram in 1920 to produce his first animated fairy tales. His financial backers soon were unable to cover expenses and Disney scraped just enough money together to take a bus to California. Today, Disney is worth an estimated $80 billion dollars.

And one name that really came as a surprise was U.S. President Abraham Lincoln  who was forced into bankruptcy in 1833, due to a poorly performing business and a mountain of debts. Lincoln lost his last two possessions, his home and some surveying equipment, and spent the next 17 years paying back the rest of the money to all the friends who had lent him funds to start his business.

I’m certainly not comparing Sapp to Trump, Ford, or Lincoln, instead just pointing out that financial failure can happen to anyone. While Sapp certainly made some poor decisions it appears his bad investments combined with the housing market failure contributed significantly to his problems today. Did he live above his means? More than likely. Could he have done some things differently to prevent ending up in this mess? Without a doubt. Sapp screwed up, he made bad business decisions, probably ignored advice from professional financial planners and thought, "that can't happen to me." But it did. But that doesn't mean he isn't human and deserving of a second chance.

But before we gloat in a man’s failure, remember the things he brought to the NFL, and specifically to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While you didn’t have to like Sapp as a person during his playing days, or since retirement, any true Bucs’ fan had to love him for those three hours in the trenches every Sunday. And as the old saying goes, "before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes". We all have regrets in the choices we have made in life, but fortunately not many involve $60 million dollars or are broadcast on the national stage.

Last modified on Sunday, 15 April 2012 18:25

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  • avatar

    It's funny how people love when others fall on their face. All because he didn't kiss your assets and be all sweet and cuddly with you. He made bad financial decisions as do many who come up from nothing to instant millionaire. Bad thing for him is if he writes off all that debt he'll be taxed on it as income so bancruptcy aint all it's cracked but to be anymore. All I know he's the sole reason I started watching football again after the Bucs let Doug Williams walk. He was a beast on the field and my boys have never been the same since he left. I hope him the best
  • avatar

    I Agree With Spartan, Seems Hard To Believe Only Three Low Income Houses Could Bring Him Down Like That, After Nearly Sixty Million In Income. There's Probably A Lot More To This We Don't Know About. But Good Luck To Warren In The Future.
  • avatar

    Sapp WAS paying his child support on time. A bad real-estate investment screwed him like many other Americans. The bank he owed the money to, PNC, got a $7.2 billion dollar bail out. That being said, Sapp is a jerk, but I'm not gonna h8.
  • avatar

    As an aside, since I usually just read PR...I had another experience that horrified me as a fan. I hope to make some difference by posting in this OT piece, if only to make some people stop and think a bit. I was allowed to park in the players lot for the home play off game vs. Detroit. Mike Alstott (who has been nothing but a jewel to this community) was surrounded by autograph hounds, and it turned into absolutely shocking "mob behavior". He got pinned against my Jeep, and I tried to get him to get in so I could get him out of there, but he fortunately was able to slide off. What are these people thinking? What right do we have to "demand" anything from our players other than giving 110% to their profession? It works both ways, fellas. Oh, and from my experience the players get assaulted, too. We just don't hear about it.
  • avatar

    Sapp will be back. He's a winner....
  • avatar

    I too appreciated Sapp for what he did in the field and accepted what an a-hole he was off it. His personality - whatever you want to call it - does not seem to have changed. From ignoring the pleas of his young fans for autographs as he was leaving the field to recently "outing" Jeremy Shockey on NFL.com (and apparently getting it wrong), it does not look like he will ever learn. I doubt that even a bankruptcy will drive the lesson home. I the end, it's a crying shame...
  • avatar

    It is called Karma, does anyone remember the news article on which Robinson's high school coach came to a Bucs practice for a County Coach of the year award? Warren Sapp told the coach who was watching the practice, if you keep staring at me, I will come over that fence and beat you *censored*? Also, nobody mentions the fact of his child support issues. Stop having kids by different women, invest wisely, and be a good person. Honestly, I think the low income housing thing is made up. That guy did not care about anyone but himself. The problem is being in another state, no one heard about his attitude unless you lived in Tampa. Karma!
  • avatar

    Hey Rudy! If your reference to being in another state was directed to me, I was a charter season ticket holder at RJS, and lived off Lutz Lake Fern Road from 95-2005 . I think that qualifies as being informed. As to the kids, yes! EVERY man needs to acknowledge there is no such thing as "she went and got herself pregnant". My point being, remember the names of the people who won the Mega millions 2 weeks or so ago? Neither does anyone else, they don't have reporters still hanging on them, or every bit of their dirty laundry aired for us to see. I haven't met anyone perfect yet. Way I heard it, there was only one perfect person born, and they killed Him for it.
  • avatar

    I have read the Soundoff's and how do some of you know that anyone is relishing in Sapp's failure to manage his money?
  • avatar

    Colbaltblue5001 - I agree fully with you....Sapp was always my favorite Buc on the field.There would be no "Tampa Two" without Warren Sapp! To all who relish in his misery because you don't like Sapp for whatever reason saying it's Karma.Aren't you bringing bad Karma to yourself?
  • avatar

    when you are an A Hole to people, they will be happy to see you fall and implode. like sapp would always say... you reap what you sow.
  • avatar

    #1....You can't fix STUPID!!!!!!! #2....Karma's a *censored*!!!!!!!!!
  • avatar

    Mark: Ditto the excellent story! I've always appreciated our #99. I've had nothing but pleasant experiences with Warren myself. I'd see him at the bank, and he'd greet me with that big ol' grin and a "Hello!". He gladly signed a jersey for my sons at a function. My neighbor's daughter noticed him at the mall one day, and he took a paper out of his wallet to sign for her after Mom had "shhh..ted" her not to bother him. (He explained he just didn't like the ones looking to put his autographed items on e-bay and it's hard to tell who they are). His daughter Mercedes attended a school with my son. He and his wife were very charitable with donations there, so my child got an even better education due to his giving. I hate to see this happen, and hate even more for others to take pleasure in it. It's not easy dealing with sudden money, you have to worry about people who wish to take advantage of your new situation (scam artists, kidnappers, and even media), you can't go ANYWHERE without someone bugging you, etc. That said, I hope Warren has learned a valuable lesson and will be open and honest with the kids he mentors, so they won't repeat this tragedy.
  • avatar

    TB219, very well put. I never had any experiences with Warren Sapp and I am glad that you are helping to explain the other side of it all too.
  • avatar

    It's unfortunate Sapp is in this situation and I'll always remember watching him play the game like no other. He was one of the most, if not the most dominant DT to ever play the game. His commitment to the game and his play on the field speaks for itself. However, the man off the field never embraced the fans, especially the young kids who idolized him. Unfortunately for him, the same people he spurned are now finding joy in his current troubles. Pro athletes should realize how important the fans are to their financial success. Without the fans, there is no big payday. Sapp probably knows this, he just doesn't care. So, in return, the fans don't care about his trouble.
  • avatar

    Sapp has to be on of the biggest a**holes i've ever met. I have no Sympathy...... Sorry *Kanye Shrug*
  • avatar

    vtrantb, I agree. None better than Lee Roy Selmon.
  • avatar

    Sapp great player on the field not so much off the field. However, the greatest BUC of all time is Lee Roy Selmon. As a great of a player as he was on the field, he was even a better person off the field.
  • avatar

    I'm looking to make some business investments in the near future. What would be a good thing to invest into? I'm asking on here because I recently moved to Houston, Tx (for work) and were looking into doing something in Tampa and need some ideas. I really want to move back to Tampa.
  • avatar

    So many folks are going bankrupt these days that I wonder if in the future, it's even going to have any kind of negative connotation. It sounds like he got caught in the real estate bubble. Lots of people did. I think the reports of 200 pairs of shoes didn't help him. Sapp was a jerk to me on the night of my bachelor party, but i still love him as a Buc. I wish him well, but i also hope that this situation teaches him some humility. All of us could use a healthy dose from time to time.
  • avatar

    Thank you for this article. Before this, I was floored by the revisionist history going on. All the people relishing in Sapp's misfortune were the same ones cheering him on for the better part of a decade. Sapp's brashness put the Bucs on the national stage from 1997 - 2003. Look at the empty stands at Raymond James today, and then remember the place as it was during Sapp's heydey, when third down would roll around, and he'd wave his arms to the packed house, riling everyone into a frenzy as the Bucs stalled yet another opponent's drives. In a few years, when Sapp, Brooks, and possibly Lynch and Barber make their way into the Hall, people will remember that defense as one of the best of all time. Sapp was its emotional leader, the man who set the tone that other teams grew to fear.
  • avatar

    Love Sapp the player hate Sapp the man, met a few times he's an *censored****e no doubt about it
  • avatar

    sad story of sudden riches, and a man who didn't appreciate his fans, or his sudden wealth.i wish him well.... always loved watching him on the field....always hoped that he would outgrow his mean spirited ways of treating people. hope he will do well in his next chapter... hope he makes the hall of fame, after brooks and lynch.
  • avatar

    There may be aspects of this I do not understand, but Sapp went bankrupt because of constructing 3 low income houses? I am more than willing to be educated on this, but that is a tad hard to believe!
  • avatar

    was a huge fan of Warren Sapp and spent many days yelling Warren at the games. I brought binocs just to watch him. And I found his running on the field through the other team to be good theater. I know he was rude on autographs but these guys deserve some privacy. And I was there when he put a legal but unnecessary hit on Chad Clifton. I could have lived with that but he never went over to see how the guy was or even went to the hospital. To me it was over the top like Greg Williams. I hope the QB killer makes the Hall of Fame, which he deserves, but I'll bet this news sounded like Karma to Mike Sherman and Chad Clifton.
  • avatar

    Pewter Report Mark, good article. Let me say a little bit about those who file Chapter 7 and most of the lenders who are screwed? I have some experience on this and I was never happy about the lost of six figure dollars over the years as some friends and relatives took advantage Chapter 7and I and others got screwed by their attorney's and the bankruptcy laws. In a way I am happy that they got a fresh start and got to keep their houses and 401"s/IRA's/SEPP's as long as they did not go back to their old ways which was spend more than what they take in; unfortunately those I have loaned money too who have filed Chapter 7 have gone back to their same previous ways. Who I have sypmpathy for in all of this is Sapp's kids because they are the victums. This is where I get on the lecture stand and say once again to the NFLPA and Maurice Smith who has done exactly what Gene Upshaw did before him which was not protect the Players from agents, relatives, friends, and coack roaches. I wish for evey million that a player earns per year that 20% is paid out initially and the remaining balance is spread out in a 10-20 year pay out periods based on the amount of millions actually received up to a maximum of 20 years in a certified bonded bank blind trust account. We can't protect stupidity, arrogance, and greed, but we can help to protect the innocence ones which are the players children.
  • avatar

    I have never understood the joy so many Bucs fans took in hating Sapp. I get that he wasn't a very nice guy. But, so many players have very flawed personalities. I didn't need him to be a nice guy. I needed him to be a terror to opposing lineman and quarterbacks and that's what he was. I needed him to be valuable component of a winning football team. That's what he was.
  • avatar

    I guess more than anything else I was very surprised to hear he had gone bankrupt. I'm sitting here trying to figure out how I feel about it. I do feel better knowing that he lost his money in the housing market like so many other Americans and not on a drug habit or gambling problem. All I can say is the cream always rises to the top so if Sapp really is the cream in the coffee he will be alright.
  • avatar

    I agree that no one should revel in the troubles of others and I will ALWAYS be greatful for Sapp's on field production. However, there is a difference in taking pleasure in others' misery and having no sympathy for it. We all are guilty of spending mre than we should but, unlike athletes, we know we'll be able to work for thirty years in order to prepare for retirement. Knowing they have a very limited time to prepare for their post football lives, it is their responsibility to plan accordingly. Karma is a *censored* and while none of us should celebrate his problems, we should not be crying for him either.
  • avatar

    The karma thing is something that popped in my head also. However while I'll never see $60 million dollars, I know for a fact I have squandered money. Whether it be a big tax refund check or a $500 payout on a lotto ticket, I know most of us have gotten some extra money and a short time later start trying to figure where the heck it went so fast. I agree no sympathy from me but was just kind of surprised by some of the venom spewed by a small segment.
  • avatar

    I will always be grateful to #99 for the player but never the "playa" he became. Even at autograph signing sessions, "Sapp Daddy" which is a moniker that is certainly appropriate, couldn't take off the gloves. He basically ignored the young fans in front of him and wouldn't even acknowledge their presence. He was no D-Brooks. The bad part for Warren is that all of this will get played out in public. Whereas if any of us had to take such an embarrassing step we, more than likely, could do so without many people even knowing. The child support he's paying to enrich the mothers of his children is a little over the top, but that's the way the system works. I wonder if any of them can account for even a tenth of what they're receiving. Anyone can have a bad business deal as Mark noted. All of this said, a man who is as intelligent and respectful of the NFL shield as Warren Sapp professes to be, should have taken care of his "affairs" a little better. Nice job Mark.
  • avatar

    Mark, thanks for covering this story. It is not good to rejoice in other people's mistakes. No matter who it is. I hope Sapp goes to the Rookie Symposium this summer. People need to understand the pitfalls of sudden riches. They need to understand the slime balls that appear out of no where that have "great investment ideas". They need a backbone to say no even though it will make them unpopular.
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