If you did not watch the first season of HBO’s “Ballers,” you haven’t missed much.  The show, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, met mixed reviews and for good reason.  It is sort of an “Entourage”meets “Arli$$,” but not as good as either.  The show is peppered with all the clichés you would expect: player makes lots of money; player blows it all on going to the clubs, big houses and friends of friends who are riding the coattails of his success.  At most a C+ in my book.  Nevertheless, I figure I am spending good money for my HBO subscription, so I am going to watch it.

Without giving too much away, the show revolves around The Rock’s character, a former NFL great linebacker Spencer Strasmore whose post-NFL career now centers on his activities as a financial advisor to his former colleagues on the gridiron.  Strasmore’s boss gives him one marching order: “monetize his friendships” with current NFL players.  Strasmore woos these players by throwing huge parties, getting them out of financial problems by loaning them money and in general helping them manage their chaotic lives.  Spencer’s firm, Anderson Financial, does all this for an atrociously high 3 percent management fee.

Being Friends with a Player Doesn’t Qualify You to Provide Financial Advice

I cannot speak for all the advisors that do business with NFL players, but I can say, after working with the NFL Players Association’s Financial Advisors (NFLPA FA) Registration Program for over three years, the advisors in “Ballers” are hardly representative of that group.

The NFLPA’s Financial Advisor program, which is unique to that union, has very strict professional standards.  Just to apply – as the first step in how to become a financial advisor – a candidate needs a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, at least eight years of licensed experience, $4 million in professional liability insurance and no pending customer complaints.  Additionally, the advisor must successfully undergo a due diligence background investigation by; you guessed it, Hillard Heintze.

The NFLPA Financial Advisor Background Investigation Is Quite Rigorous

Hillard Heintze investigators not only verify all education, work experience and professional licenses the prospective advisor discloses, but we painstakingly review the advisor’s personal and professional background maintained in the public record.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Criminal and civil records searches at both the federal and state level. 
  • A review of the candidate’s financial background, including pulling and analyzing their credit report, and a search for any bankruptcies, liens or judgements that may have been filed by or against the advisor. 
  • A search for undisclosed business partnerships, especially those that might relate to a player. 
  • A search of archived press and media accounts of the financial advisor to identify any derogatory information that may have become a matter of public record.

In other words if Spencer Strasmore applied for the NFLPA Financial Advisor Program, after he had the minimum eight years of experience, we would find out he threw a huge party on a multi-million dollar yacht that involved all the scandals you would expect and made the local news.  Not a good chance he is allowed into the program.

While the show “Ballers” is entertaining, the story behind the actual NFLPA FA program lets the players save the drama for the field and put their money work for them.