Virtue Matters More Than Money

Without wise stewardship the fast acquisition of wealth will find one quickly living in poverty.

The recent Allen Iverson news, in particular, has caused many to revisit this issue in new ways. When thinking about what sustains success in the long-run we are foolish as a society if we think that social mobility can be sustained without moral formation. Athletes are people who should be treated with dignity and not as commodities to be traded for the sake of wins and tickets sales. What this means is that if we are doing to promote the possibility of sports participation as a means of social mobility we cannot do that without cultivating and training the moral virtues needed to properly exercise stewardship over wealth. Otherwise, we will continue see disaster stories like these.

 
There is such powerful interest in sports being a way out of poverty for many low-income males, especially black males, that we tend to forget about other things, like wisdom, that contribute to success. For many young men and women sports has given them and their families amazing new opportunities to quickly go from subsistence to wealth. However, for many athletes the lessons of stewardship, which are first modeled in the home, were never properly cultivated, resulting in them losing all of their earnings within a short time. Here are just a few recent ones from BusinessInsider.com:

Robert Swift Swift was one of the last players to go to the NBA straight out of high school. He earned $11 million in three seasons, but after he stopped playing he lost his $1.3 million Seattle home.

NBA super star, Allen Iverson, who earned $154 million in salary lived beyond his means after his playing career ended. He kept spending thousands on jewelry, clothes, and nights out. He’s lost it all. His $4.5 million home was foreclosed on recently as well.

Lawrence “L.T.” Taylor won the NFL’s MVP in 1986 and starred in two superbowls but used cocaine during his career and was jailed three times for attempted drug possession following his retirement. He filed for bankruptcy in 1998, citing mortgage troubles. And in 2011, he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and patronizing a prostitute. He was ordered to serve six months of probation. One of the best defensive players in the league’s history ultimately lost about $50 million.

To this list we could also add:

Antoine Walker, who was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2010 only two years after he retired from the NBA. Walker blames himself—particularly his bad real estate deals, gambling, and lavish lifestyle—for losing $110 million in 14 years.

Deuce McAllister, the former New Orleans Saints running back, was instantly crippled financially by a car dealership. McAllister was $7 million in the red and his Louisiana home was auctioned off by the Sheriff’s office less than 12 months after his retirement.

The recent Allen Iverson news, in particular, has caused many to revisit this issue in new ways. When thinking about what sustains success in the long-run we are foolish as a society if we think that social mobility can be sustained without moral formation. Athletes are people who should be treated with dignity and not as commodities to be traded for the sake of wins and tickets sales. What this means is that if we are doing to promote the possibility of sports participation as a means of social mobility we cannot do that without cultivating and training the moral virtues needed to properly exercise stewardship over wealth. Otherwise, we will continue see disaster stories like these. Without wise stewardship the fast acquisition of wealth will find one quickly living in poverty.

Anthony Bradley is an Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics at The King’s College, NYC. This commentary is taken from the Acton Institute Power blog and is used with permission.

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