Divorce and Professional Sports

I’d like to begin this post by first thanking everyone for inviting me to post here.

Last week, the New York Times ran this article about divorve rates in professional sports in North America.  While specifically discussing the case of divorce rates in the NFL, it is noted the divorce rate for players in the league is between 60 and 80 percent, and is on par with the divorce rates of other professional sport leagues in North America.  The article goes into discussion of the factors which are probably causes for the high divorce rates for professional athletes, many of which are being investigated by a sociology professor at Oregon State named Dr. Steven Ortiz.  However, what is not discussed is the potential financial and economics motives which may be helping to increase this divorce rate.

The article specifically states that a good number of the divorces occur right after players retire, when these players still have much of the money they have earned from their playing career, but are no longer receiving any pay checks.  It is possible that divorce settlements targeted for this period may be seen as a form of profit maximization behavior.  In this manner, spouses can get a divorce, and a large share of the money before it starts to slowly drain away, especially if the professional athlete is unable to find a career or any other methods of obtaining income.  Thus, while it is a sad fact of life, I believe there may be some profit maximizing behavior reflected in the trend of divorce rates and the timing of these divorces involving professional athletes.

A final note which I found to be quite interesting, a speaker from the Professional Athletes Outreach notes within the article, that two years after retirement, 78 percent of NFL players are either: jobless, divorced, or bankrupt.  With the NFL being such a brutal sport on the physical well-being of the athletes, it seems that the payoffs (both financially, physically, and socially) may not be as great as many expect.  Granted many athletes do manage to live the life of luxury, however the group staying financially stable seem to be to a shrinking minority.

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