NEW YORK (CBS Baltimore) — Right before halftime of Super Bowl XXXV, one of the greatest defensive units the NFL had ever seen needed to make a stop. Leading the New York Giants, 10-0, the Baltimore Ravens’ defense had been pushed to its own 29-yard line, the Giants hoping to score before the half. But Chris McAlister, one of Baltimore’s dynamic cornerbacks at the time, picked off Giants quarterback Kerry Collins near the end zone, swinging momentum back to Baltimore heading into the locker room, squashing any comeback opportunity. The Ravens would go on to roll the Giants, 34-7, the McAlister interception setting the tone for what would be the team’s first Super Bowl championship.
A little more than a decade later, McAlister, a three-time Pro Bowler, who at one time was under contract for a total of $55 million, finds himself living with his parents, wrapped up in a nasty child-support case with his ex-wife, and is, for all intents and purposes, broke.
As first reported by TMZ on Thursday, court documents detail how McAlister, a retired 10-year NFL veteran of the Ravens and New Orleans Saints, has no income and hasn’t had any income flow since retiring in 2009.
Currently, McAlister is wrapped up in trying to lower his $11,000 a month obligations in child support to his ex-wife, Marlene, who claimed that McAlister ended their marriage in 2009 after just 13 months when she got pregnant and refused to have an abortion.
“My parents provide me with my basic living expenses as I do not have the funds to do so,” he said in the court records.
The McAlister story is the latest example of retired NFL players facing significant financial trouble just two or three years removed their playing days. A 2009 Sports Illustrated study found that 78 percent of former NFL players are bankrupt or face serious financial heartache due to joblessness or divorce just two years into retirement. Somewhere between 60 to 80 percent of athletes in the three major American professional leagues – the NFL, NBA, and MLB – are going broke between two and four years into retirement, said Brian Ouellette, founder of Pro Athlete Direct, a Seattle-based athlete-agent database service aiming to help pro athletes improve their financial investments.
One of the more common threads amongst athletes facing financial trouble only a couple years out of the game stems from a lack of financial investment plan from the time some athletes enter the league, Ouellette said. Investments by athletes in items such as cars and real estate have not been seen as stable, long-term assets that will be beneficial to their estate once they’re retired.
“When looking at McAlister, I would not be surprised if we see more of these wipeouts,” Ouellette said. “We are seeing athletes that are highly invested in real estate, leveraged in highly depreciating assets. Something that was worth a buck is now 20 or 30 cents if you can get it liquefied.”
He added: “When athletes make it professionally, they need to identify that they did earn this money. They need to treat money with respect.”
Considering pro athletes in the three major sports have a very limited time to generate the bulk of their net worth, these financial difficulties are compounded by a lack of time as well as the instinctive need to take care of family and friends, Ouellette said.
“I think Chris is in that situation of trying to help a lot of guys,” Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata told the Baltimore Sun. “It’s tough. You’ve just got to make sure that you take care of yourself and you definitely feel sympathy for him just because you know what he’s been through. Hopefully, he can come out of it.”
Either way, that Super Bowl-winning performance must seem like a long time ago.