The Financial Crises of Allen Iverson and Terell Owens
Two gifted and formerly-paid ball players face devastating money woes
By David Leonard and James Braxton Peterson
Allen Iverson and Terrell Owens are not the kind of athletes that necessarily invite compassion and/or understanding, either from the media or from the sports fan community. Each of them have at various points in their all-too-brief careers, enjoyed the scorn of both fans and sports media alike, and usually simultaneously. It’s no small coincidence that each of them enjoyed their most successful stints in the Philadelphia, where T.O.’s histrionics and A.I.’s nihilism found brilliant exposure in a city that claims “brotherly love” and thrives on working class values with the not-so-subtle suggestion that said values are inherently White. Yet, the media coverage of their current financial woes, seems to take too much of the “I told you so” tones of a media waiting for these kinds of disappointing outcomes to occur – especially to those ungrateful athletes who deserve what ever bad fortune they get.
Bomani Jones recently wrestled with the news that A.I.’s current financial challenges are punctuated by some extraordinarily absurd amount of money owed on jewelry (i.e. bling in snarky parlance totaling some 375K or 860K with court costs attached) – bling that of course, he should never have purchased in the first place. Jones’ take on A.I.’s current challenges is fair and insightful. He notes his own sadness and the complexities that athletes face post-career.
A.I.’s overall financial status is unknown, but one thing we can be certain of is that he has been frozen out of the NBA and basketball more generally. Considering that he has anything left in the tank, and that there are any number of teams that might be able to play him off the bench – it is of course, a point-guard’s game at the moment – we can only conclude that public perceptions dictate his fate. His attitude, his willingness to be a coachable player, and the negative reporting that dogged his career, all work in concert to prevent him from what must be his last few years of professional sports play. But sadly these misperceptions about A.I. will likewise prevent him from entering the coaching/scouting ranks or from even having a crack at the sports commentating game. These possibilities are truly troublesome for a player who by some reports was “pound-for-pound” one of the greatest players ever to pick up a basketball.
Like it or not, attitude matters, and sadly, perceptions of one’s attitude matters even more. Unfortunately we can’t know whether or not A.I. was actually a “team” player. All we are supposed to understand is that A.I.’s current financial challenges suggest that he has cavalierly squandered the American Dream. In retrospect, too much of the coverage on his career centered on his hair, his tattoos, his rap lyrics, his entourage, his . . . almost anything but the fact that he was one the best damn players to ever dribble a basketball.
In a recent GQ profile, Nancy Hass highlights the trials and tribulations of Terrell Owens, offering readers a stereotyped and troubling story of the “fall” of an NFL star. “As you’re planning your Super Bowl party this year, give a thought to future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens. He’s out of work, out of money, and currently in court with all four of his baby mamas.” These, the first lines of the story, punctuate its peddling of widely circulated stereotypes of Black athletes, recycling the tacitly accepted trope of the once famous and wealthy Black athlete who threw it all a way. Focusing on his loss of 80 million dollars, his personal demons, and his pain, Hass turns Owens into a spectacle for readers to condemn, gawk at, and otherwise ridicule in an effort to hate the player not the game.
Despite the caricatures, stereotypes and the troubling narrative, the GQ article actually provides some insight into Owens’ financial situation. Partially challenging the dominant narrative that he simply wasted the money by highlighting failed investments and depreciating home values (he bought one home for 3.9 million but was forced to sell it for 1.7 in 2010), Hass’s work approaches complexity in its coverage. Yet, the media, which simply took the GQ story to create their own, erases any of the complexity and tragedy, instead using the moment to further demonize Owens and place the blame on his shoulders. For example, Deron Synder who claims that TO “appears to have serious money problems, due largely to the four paternity suits.” The cases are not questioning the paterning of these children, but the amount of child support Owens should pay given the end of his career.
Continue reading at Broke Ballers: The Financial Crises of Allen Iverson and Terell Owens – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY.
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As it relates to Iverson: The reality is to some degree he froze himself out. Whether it was in Detroit, back in Philly or later in Memphis he lived in a house with no mirrors. Superstars lose super fast, star faster and identity fastest. Allen Iverson the man was ill prepared by the world for the days when Allen Iverson the superstar would cease to exist. Authentic always fit Iverson better than Allen. He was Ann’s little man from the dilapidated streets of Newport News. He was never supposed to be what he became. Not in America. He was 5 feet 10 inches and 160 pounds of heart encapsulated in brown skin. It was that heart that birthed confidence, determination and disillusionment. That heart brought him to the mountain top but also sent him over the edge. He couldn’t cope with the realization that he had to turn in his cape. Some of that’s on him, but some of that is on us. The traits we loved most about Allen Iverson are the same traits, which now hold him hostage. He has been Allen Iverson superstar for so long that he doesn’t know how to be just Allen Iverson. He doesn’t know how to go about coming in the back door because he’s always just kicked in the front. I sincerely hope he finds a way to find peace as just Allen Iverson, because just Allen Iverson is someone worth being.
As it relates to Owens: Like most young boys when they reach adolescence they start developing feelings and emotions for their female counterparts. Terrell was particularly smitten with a young lady who resided across the street from where he lived. One day the girl’s father came outside the house and told Terrell that he could no longer be romantically interested in his daughter. Terrell learned that day that the girl he found attractive was also his half sister. For the first 11 years of his life Terrell’s father lived directly across the street from him and he had no idea. As far as I am concerned anything Terrell Owens did in life after that day should be considered a great achievement. Furthermore his grandmother who raised him would force him to go bed at the time most young boys were out playing with their pals or returning home for supper. The media portrays him as someone with supreme confidence, a boastful personality that borders on extreme narcissism. The truth is Terrell Owens is the same boy from a little town in Alabama who never got love from his father, was never told I love you by his grandmother and was berated and bullied at school over his particularly dark skin and African features (a common American pastime). T.O. was an alter ego created because everyone else did a pretty good job of murdering the original. T.O. is the front where Terrell tries to launder his feelings of inadequacy and self hate. Suddenly those “alleged” suicide attempts need no explanation. Terrell Owens has never been the man you thought he was. I hope he gets an opportunity to find out what kind of man he can be away from all those who’ve been so intent on murdering the original.