Money side – Falcons’ Brandon Copeland shows NFL players how to cash in
The conversation began in the locker room of the Atlanta Falcons, undrafted rookie defensive backs Dwayne johnson and JR Pace discuss finances and how to get started in a league where careers can be short but money can be long.
A week earlier, the veteran linebacker Brandon copeland had spoken to Falcons rookies about financial literacy and money management. Johnson and Pace continued the conversation and posed questions to Copeland, a Kiplinger’s editor who teaches the subject at the University of Pennsylvania during the NFL offseason.
Copeland started to respond and then decided to pivot. He would bring it to a larger group, the one he started and which meets virtually on Wednesday evenings, attended by Pace and Johnson.
“So the question we asked is basically how do you start a business or whatever with no money,” Johnson told the group. “Like, how to start a business or an idea or join a group without the financial means, as is.”
That’s a question most rookies and young players in the NFL – and other sports – ask themselves. This is a question that too many athletes learn the answer to too late in their careers, or after the end of their careers, when the opportunity to grow their money has largely passed.
Copeland paused for a second. He started these Zoom sessions for this reason. “That’s the multi-million dollar question right there.”
Copeland last month launched virtual class-slash-hangout-slash briefings – called the “Professional Athlete Development Program” – to bring athletes together to discuss financial options to help them in the present and the future. to come up.
Spread across the country, active players, rookies, and retired players tune in at 7 a.m. ET on Wednesday nights with one goal: to learn things about money they didn’t know when they walked into. the NFL. Copeland is fueling the conversation around finance, investing, and economics to potentially make players work together to find meaningful deals and avoid issues other athletes have faced.
“Things like this are extremely, extremely important in, I hope, keeping people from losing money,” Copeland said. “But also helping people increase their net worth over time. For me, that’s the most important thing.”
Copeland’s original idea was to bring athletes to New York and have them work on resumes, prepare for interviews and in-person viewing opportunities. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Everything went online.
Sat with the idea for another year, and after leading a “Money Talks” webinar through the NFLPA last year, he didn’t want to wait any longer. Copeland started a small text message chain with other players and pitched the idea of having sessions where they could collaborate and discuss their own experiences – their successes, their failures. With more people comfortable communicating virtually, this could broaden his plan.
The guys could be anywhere for the 90 minute conversations. Started by word of mouth, Copeland believed there might be five or six players in the first session in May.
Almost 20 people showed up and they increased every week. This created bonds and connections that might not have happened otherwise, which could come in handy in many areas, from combining to connect to deals to warning other players about experiences. with financial advisors and others who may not have the athlete’s best interests in mind.
A Discord server, a permanent add-on to Zoom sessions, has over 100 members, mostly athletes and a few artists.
“Every week I jump on a call I wouldn’t have been on and learn at least one thing I didn’t know before,” said Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mack Hollins. “No matter how knowledgeable I am on a topic, I make a call and someone can say something I didn’t know.
“So it’s great, honestly, to be a part of it and some days to listen, other days to be the talking guy.
Zoom sessions and the Discord server are considered a safe space. No question is too remedial. No one is judged for their lack of knowledge. It’s about helping to build something together between teams and generations of the NFL to help the players who want to enjoy it.
“It’s a collective thing. Everyone needs this information,” said Cliff Avril, who played for Seattle and Detroit from 2008 to 2017. “Everyone has to understand what we are trying to do and how it is done. works. “
Copeland, who graduated from Penn’s Wharton School in 2013 with a degree in economics, has designed the sessions in the general vein of his class at Penn and the seminars he runs on his Life 101 website.
Unlike the students he teaches or those who took his course online, these Wednesday conversations focus on high net worth issues due to the salaries NFL players receive. Instead of lecturing, he takes on the role of a traffic cop – asking questions and keeping things flowing, monitoring if people engage and stay with the session.
The plan, for now, consists of eight sessions covering different areas of finance: an introduction, taxes, investing, venture capital, real estate, cryptocurrency, “The Business of Me, and a last open session.
Copeland brings in experts to answer questions and expose participants to connections. During the venture capital session, he invited one of his mentors, Nick Morris, the hedge fund manager who co-founded Health Warrior; Kai Cunningham, general partner of Miami-based venture capital fund Limited Ventures; and Jasmine Maietta, former marketing manager at Under Armor who started her own business, round21.
They were part of the conversation with the athletes who held the majority of the conversation, including Copeland, Avril, a former NFL linebacker. Brandon chubb and former Raiders and Seahawks tight end Zach Miller, who after playing became a private wealth advisor for AWM Capital.
They started with Johnson’s question, offering different perspectives based on their own experiences. Morris broke down the different VC rounds and warned that if you invest the money in a seed round, you might not see a return on your investment for a decade, if ever. Cunningham explained that they can receive equity or various offers not only through the money, but also by using their social media followers and their status as NFL players.
“It’s being able,” Cunningham said, “to purposefully exploit your likeness.”
Miller and Avril spoke about the difference in options a player can have between active and retired.
“It all depends on who you know,” Avril told the group. “So growing your network while you’re playing is huge, man. Because the doors will close that you have available to you right now as an active player, they will close.
“So build those relationships and build real relationships.”
Relationship building, in many ways, is the focus of the sessions in the first place.
Early in Copeland’s career, as he rebounded from Baltimore to Tennessee after being undrafted in 2013, he had the same questions Johnson and Pace are doing now. He had Wharton’s knowledge base and corporate internships, but conversations rarely took place in the locker room.
Then, as he became more comfortable in the league and in himself, he opened up. In Detroit, he bonded with Glover Quin, Haloti Ngata, Tahir Whitehead and Don Carey. He found that there were players involved in almost every space he was interested in at a few lockers.
“A young man entering the league who wants to play linebacker but is also interested in real estate or also takes care of his family who is pulling them financially or who is trying to buy his first house, tries to buy his first car, ”said Copeland. . “There is no set standard or place where they can go and collaborate with others and learn from the experiences of others, is there.
“And so for me, I think I wanted to, originally I wanted to create this band.”
In Seattle, Avril had similar thoughts. On mornings in the Seahawks’ locker rooms, he and Michael Bennett played financial audiobooks over the speakers – “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” was a favorite – both for their knowledge and to send a message to young players.
Start to learn. Start to see yourself as more than a football player, but as an investor, a company, a brand. April texted Bennett during the venture capital conversation on Wednesday, inviting him to the group. Bennett logged on for a little while and didn’t speak, but Avril said he told him the next day that they needed to talk about money management more often.
“We’re tired of seeing or hearing 30-for-30 Broke, aren’t we,” Avril said. “Because that’s what everyone’s guessing we’re going to end up and in all reality it’s not as common as they claim it is. So I just want guys and I want to change the narrative.
“That’s how we change stories, by talking to guys.”