Bankrupt: Warren Sapp Not Reported Like Bernie Kosar and Mark Brunell
By C. Modiano On April 10, 2012
“Former NFL star Warren Sapp owes more than $6.7 million to creditors and back child support and alimony, according to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing in South Florida. Sapp’s $6.45 million in assets includes 240 pairs of Jordan athletic shoes worth almost $6,500; a $2,250 watch; and a lion skin rug worth $1,200.”
The anonymous AP writer felt that 240 pairs of Jordans, a watch, and a rug were somehow integral to Sapp’s story. Although these items did not even total 10,000 dollars, they were integral to the article’s response. The AP reprinted story produced over 5000+ ESPN comments filled with racial ridicule, while other outlets seized the sneaker angle. The line about “back child support” was also a big hit. A sampling:
- dvolpe_87: “A black man doesn’t pay child support? What is the news here?”
texansfan5687: “what is it about ‘African American’ men and not paying their child support?? When are these people going to start taking some social responsibility for themselves?”
NYGhTMar3: “I’m tired of seeing alot black athletes spending MILLIONS of dollars of typical bullshiiiii’…
(note: comments containing racial slurs are quickly scrubbed out by ESPN)
If many commenters saw “Black athlete” instead of “athlete”, it came with a big assist from the author. A closer look at both of Sapp’s assets and liabilities show that he is hardly broke — at least compared to the recent NFL bankruptcy disasters named Bernie Kosar and Mark Brunell.
Despite a debt 80 times that of Sapp, the Associated Press never even issued a story about Mark Brunell’s bankruptcy despite a Wall Street Journal report and lawsuit claims of a $25 million against him. Local reports about Brunell were often framed with favorable quotes that emphasized Brunell’s “trusting… weakness” (“He looks for the best in people“) or his extensive charity work. As for Kosar, his Associated Press report was handled with care, brevity, and without itemization of petty expenses:
“Kosar owes almost $1.5 million in “unsecured debt” to the Cleveland Browns… owes his ex-wife Babette $3 million and $725,000 (from a personal loan) to the owner of the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League. He owes a bank more than $9 million for bad real estate deals. The 45-year-old Kosar got divorced in 2007 and last year saw his steakhouse go out of business.”
Unlike Sapp, sports reports of Brunell and Kosar were most often framed as victims of both bad business investments and an external economic recession instead of individual failings around personal spending behavior. However, Kosar’s divorce proceedings tell a different story:
“In 2007, Kosar’s wife, Babette, filed for divorce. She accused him of acting ”financially irrationally and irresponsibly” by ”giving away money,” according to court documents. ‘It [the divorce] has been a public disaster, with him being accused of several addictions, of erratic behavior and of giving away the couple’s money.’”
Kosar’s alleged “irrationality”, “irresponsibility”, and “addictions” never made into any sports sections, nor his failed support or mention of his own children. Conversely, the final line of Sapp’s Associated Press story on Sapp ended in the same spirit that it was started:
“[Sapp] was arrested in 2010 following an alleged domestic violence incident at a Miami Beach hotel. He would have faced one count of misdemeanor domestic battery, but prosecutors declined to prosecute, saying in court documents that there were inconsistencies in the victim’s statements and evidence.”
Despite no conviction or relevancy to his bankruptcy, this was an important inclusion to the AP writer. As such, Sapp’s story is being held up as the latest media ”cautionary tale” — a more common media response to Black athlete misbehavior.