Every Sunday, on 1450 AM “The Weekend Sports Buzz,” there is segment entitled “Ashley’s Loco Cinco.” During this segment, I present five of the craziest sports stories occurring in the past week. This segment has gained increasing popularity mostly because it is comical, but often, it sparks very interesting, socially conscious conversations. This week thetop five included former baseball star Reggie Jackson going off on fans and Hulk Hogan’s drama with the WWE, but this week’s most thought provoking conversation came after a story about Los Angeles Clippers’ forward, Josh Smith.
This story, reported on multiple new outlets goes like this: The Los Angeles Clippers offered forward Josh Smith, the ex-Detroit Piston, a $1.5 million contract for the 2015–16 season. This contract, he signed. On top of this deal, he is also going to make an additional $5.4 million from his prior deal with the Detroit Pistons. This means that for the upcoming basketball season, he will earn a grand total of $6.9 million. This week, the Clippers introduced their player to the media, where Smith let America know of his struggle. He stated, “At the end of the day, you know, I do have a family,” he said. “So it is going to be a little harder on me this year. But I’m going to push through it, you know.”
Cue the social media frenzy! Essentially, folks all over the country are trying to understand how it’s possible that someone can complain about making $6.9 million in one year, and call it a struggle. Considering that the average American brings in an annual income of $50,500, not many people have sympathy for Josh Smith’s situation. Posts on Twitter this week have included the following sarcasm: “Life is so hard for Josh Smith”; “Text “Smoove” to 12345 to donate $5 to Josh Smith so he won’t have to suffer through the hardship of feeding his family on only $6.9 million”; and “I am going to start a Go Fund Me page for Josh Smith.” Some of the posts seek more insight into the situation, so let’s take a look at a bigger picture.
As absurd as it may seem to some, there’s a very serious discussion to be had surrounding this situation. It’s possible that Josh Smith simply wanted a larger contract and chose an insensitive way to get this point across. It is also possible that he really has created a lifestyle for himself that is hard to maintain making $6.9 million a year. Considering the fact that several professional athletes, no matter the sport or the era, have well-documented financial struggles despite the millions of dollars they make, let’s pursue scenario number two.
Scenario number two requires a real hard look at the current sports and social landscape. Today, it is very likely that a basketball player with pro-potential will have little to no college education. This means that they are thrust onto the big stage and asked to manage millions of dollars as essentially an adolescent. At 19 or 20 years old, I can honestly say I would have probably blown my first few million dollars on non-tangibles, things I probably couldn’t even recall. Would I have invested? Probably not. Would I have tried to take all of my friends along for the ride? Probably so. I might have created a lifestyle that would be impossible to maintain.
The issue highlighted here goes beyond Josh Smith. It is an issue that faces our society from those in the lowest income bracket to those in the highest. I suggest that this type of situation is a symptom of a bigger problem. It is often assumed that children learn how to manage money from their parents. But if their parents are living paycheck to paycheck, or are not around to show them how to be fiscally responsible, how do they learn? Financial literacy is a concept that not many have or understand today. Personally, I didn’t learn how to balance a checkbook, the importance of saving or the significance of credit scores and investments until I was an adult. I was just lucky enough not to have my poor decisions broadcasted across social media.
For the NBA, part of this issue could be resolved by increasing the age at which athletes can declare for the draft. Increased age could mean increased maturity, thus better financial decisions. On a larger scale, I’d like to see a financial literacy course of sorts taught in high school so that students can learn how to effectively manage money and invest for their futures. We, as a society, cannot continue to pound the gavel of judgement when we aren’t doing much to help the situation. #Teach