Terrell Owens: Broke, Alone And In Exile

This morning, the news came that Terrell Owens—future Hall of Fame wide receiver and one of the most famous men in football—will play for and co-own the Allen Wranglers, a tiny, unknown indoor football league team in Texas. It’s a long, long way from the NFL, but at least T.O. has a job. GQ contributor Nancy Hass just profiled Owens in our February issue, and it’s a sad, fascinating portrait of a broke, lonely superstar slowing coming to grips with the twilight of his career. The full piece is here. Below, an excerpt about the remarkable state of Owens’s finances.

Under similar circumstances, a lesser talent with a smaller ego might eat crow and feign gratitude. Owens’s lack of contrition is either principled or plain crazy, considering how much he needs to play. Not just the kind of “need” you see in superstars whose egos are wrapped up in being in the limelight, the ones who can’t let go as age slows them down. Needs it, as he’s not afraid to admit. Owens may have made a lot of money in his career—at least $80 million—but he insists almost all of it is gone.

It’s not a matter of having lived too large—he was never the type to stockpile Ferraris or build himself a compound; the flashiest car he ever drove was a Mercedes, and while he indeed racked up a few homes that cost as much as $4 million, the only crib he classifies as even mildly sick by pro-ball standards was the one he bought in Atlanta to live in during the Philly off-season.

The problem, he says, is that he’s by nature too trusting, loyal to a fault, despite everyone’s carping that he’s selfish. It’s the sad old stereotypical song of the up-from-nothing black athlete: He let other people take care of things. He says his financial advisers (informally recommended by Rosenhaus) put him in a series of risky, highly leveraged ventures that he didn’t discover until autumn 2010, when he finally demanded a full accounting. And of course there were the houses and condos, which he had always figured he could rent out; they became dead weight when the real estate market collapsed in 2008. Individually they weren’t terribly lavish, but together the mortgage nut is reportedly almost $750,000 a year. The Atlanta house is on the market; the south Jersey place he paid $3.9 million for was sold for $1.7 million in late 2010. Most egregious of all was the ill-fated Alabama entertainment complex (with an electronic-bingo component) that cost him $2 million. He invested, he says, at the suggestion of his advisers and a lawyer they steered him to, Pamela Linden. The venture turned out to be illegal in the state, not to mention a violation of the NFL’s policy prohibiting players from investing in gambling. Owens is suing Linden, as is Clinton Portis, the former Redskins running back who also invested. (Several other players and the boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. also got sucked into the venture.)

"I hate myself for letting this happen," he says. "I believed that they had my back when they said, ‘You take care of the football, and we’ll do the rest.’ And in the end, they just basically stole from me."