Bucs Receiver Fires His Gardener as NFL Haggles Over $9 Billion

NFL Haggles With Players Over $9 Billion
The Sun Life Stadium is shown behind a locked gate as the NFL lockout looms on March 3, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photographer: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Capri Truvillion-Gant’s husband should be practicing his pass-catching for the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Instead, she’s got him mowing the lawn.

Truvillion-Gant, 38, says she and her husband, Ed Gant, fired their gardener in one of the cutbacks they are making after the U.S.’s most-popular television sport locked out players three months ago.

“I told him you’re very lucky you need a license to work on an air conditioning unit, or you’d be fixing that, too,” Truvillion-Gant said in a telephone interview from the family’s home in Chandler, Arizona.

NFL and National Basketball Association players are being told to spend less these days by people including their wives, unions, agents and financial advisers. The NFL locked out players in March after talks broke down on how to divide about $9 billion in revenue, the most of any sports league. A majority of NBA players, whose labor agreement expires June 30, received their final season paychecks on May 1.

The average NFL salary in 2009, the last season a figure is available, was $1.89 million; this season in the NBA it was $5.8 million.

Michael Marchiano, who manages portfolios for more than 20 professional athletes at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC’s office in Morristown, New Jersey, said the labor problems emphasize how quickly their high-paid jobs can disappear, so he treats sports stars like near-retirees. As with people in their 60s, he said, athletes may be at or near their peak earning and need to manage money conservatively to provide long-term security.

Save Money

“The NFL stands for ‘Not For Long,’” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s our job as advisers to talk to the athletes and their families, saying a strict budget has to be in place. We have to find ways to cut down on bills and not live paycheck-to-paycheck.”

The NFL Players Association has spent about two years telling players to save money, and that’s advice Truvillion-Gant plans to follow. With no team activities scheduled, Gant, a 24-year-old who in January signed a futures contract with the Bucs that takes effect whenever the new league year starts, exercises daily for about four hours at Arizona State University. The family gave up its gym membership. His wife is helping him start an athletic training business. She’s also putting him to work around the couple’s home.

“I explained to him, ‘Baby, I guess you’ll be cutting the lawn and pulling weeds and cutting bushes,’” Truvillion-Gant said. “We made a trip to Home Depot and bought the gloves and he’s been doing it ever since.”

No Trips

Truvillion-Gant said the couple isn’t taking any trips or making long-term financial commitments while the lockout continues. Meanwhile, she’s set to appear on an unscripted reality program being developed called “Cougars of Scottsdale.”

Gant declined to comment on how the family is dealing with the lockout.

A 56-page “Lockout Handbook” produced by the NBA players union, with the motto “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst,” was given to the league’s roughly 450 players during the season. It advises them to renegotiate mortgages and rent, sell any car they haven’t driven in six months, fire stylists and assistants, and “steer clear of expensive jewelry and clothing purchases.”

Selling the Bentley

As a union executive committee member, Roger Mason Jr. is among those charged with warning league players about protecting their finances.

“It would be pure ignorance not to keep in mind that there could be a lockout,” Mason, a free agent who played for the New York Knicks last season, said in March.

Mason, an eight-year NBA veteran who earned $1.4 million for the 2010-11 season, sold his Bentley after he joined the Knicks following two years with the San Antonio Spurs. That’s partly because he now lives in New York, and partly in anticipation of a cloudy financial future, he said.

“I owned it outright, had bought it for cash and just didn’t need it in New York, so I put the money in the bank,” said Mason, 30.

Dwayne Hendricks, 25, is using his time off from football to work out and gain some non-NFL job experience. The New York Giants reserve defensive tackle, who graduated from the University of Miami with a double major in business management and marketing, spends his days training with his former high school coach and substitute teaching in his native Millville, New Jersey.

More Work

“I’m going to take care of what I can take care of,” he said in an interview. “I just turn a negative into a positive. Now I have more chances to work on my first step, or my hands, or my agility.”

Gant and Hendricks don’t suit up on game day unless they get promoted to the active roster. Anyone on the practice squad made a minimum of $5,200 a week last season under terms of the expired collective bargaining agreement.

Hendricks’s agent, Chris Napoli, founder of Miami-based NorthStar Sports Representation LLC, said making sure his clients are both ready to play and solvent when the lockout ends requires him to do more than negotiate their contracts. He provides players with in-house lawyers, an accountant and a referral to Marchiano for wealth management. He said his phone has been ringing constantly from families concerned about budgeting and players seeking advice about purchases.

“You are the person watching,” Napoli said in a telephone interview. “The thing that lands most players in trouble is poor fiscal advice. In today’s world, hiring an agent without a very strong financial understanding would break down to the equivalent of an NFL team signing an athlete without any offseason preparation. Probably not the best idea.”

‘Necessities and Wants’

Brian Burns, a first vice president at Morgan Stanley, said their NFL clients are now receiving about $10,000 a month through the NFLPA’s lockout fund. They’re talking with the athletes’ families, separating “necessities and wants.” The advisers say they typically set up three accounts for each player: one to use, another to generate income for the first, and a third that they hopefully won’t touch for years.

“Then, if there’s a lockout, who cares?” he said. “We set them up properly to get through it.”

Bruce Teilhaber says advice like that is hurting his business, as he helps fewer size-18 feet into the $975 Mezlan alligator slip-ons at Friedman’s Shoes. The large-footed men who play basketball and football have cut their spending by 50 percent at the Atlanta store, where in past seasons they’ve made up 20 percent of a business that carries designer shoes in sizes as large as 22, Teilhaber said.

“They were told not to spend any money, and I guess a lot of them are not,” Teilhaber said in a telephone interview. “Because I’ll tell you they’re not spending it here.”

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