Players Behaving Badly


Football season is back! College teams have started already, and the pros kick off this weekend. As we welcome back the energy and excitement of game day, we also must deal with players and teams inevitably getting into some trouble. Lately it seems there is a new scandal each week in the football world, whether it’s improper recruiting, illegal bounty programs, or fallen coaches. What seems to rarely get mentioned is the hot water many players find themselves in over their taxes!  

We’ll start our tour of NFL tax offenders with Plaxico Burress. The free–agent wide receiver, who once signed a $25 million contract with the New York Giants, owes New York State nearly $60,000 in tax. Of course, Burress is no stranger to the law — he spent almost two years in prison after accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub. Running back Jamal Anderson played eight seasons for the Atlanta Falcons, where he earned the nickname “Dirty Bird” for his touchdown celebration dance. But the IRS will be dancing in the end zone when they collect over one million dollars in unpaid taxes for 2007 and 2008. Quarterback Ken Stabler led the Oakland Raiders to a 32–14 win over the Minneapolis Vikings in Super Bowl XI (that was so long ago, people actually paid more attention to the game than the commercials). Now it looks like he’ll be playing for the IRS. Earlier this summer, a federal judge sacked Stabler for $259,851 in unpaid business and personal taxes and another $5,509 in penalties. Stabler’s attorney says the former passer has sold his house to help pay the debt, and will also make monthly payments out of income he earns appearing at NFL events.  

While Burress, Anderson, and Stabler definitely have major tax woes, they do have one thing going for them: they actually filed their returns, even if they didn’t pay. Cornerback William James played for the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, and San Francisco 49ers. Apparently, his W2 got lost in one of the moves, because federal prosecutors say he failed to file returns for 2005–2009. Now he faces up to a year in prison and $100,000 in fines when he’s sentenced later this month.  

And what about everyone’s favorite former All–Pro felon, O.J. Simpson? The IRS announced just last week that they had tackled him with liens for almost $200,000 for 2008, 2009, and 2010. Of course, taxes are probably the least of O.J.’s worries right now, considering he’s got 29 years left to serve on armed robbery and kidnapping charges.  

With the U.S. tax code as complicated as it is, there are many ways you can accidentally find yourself on the receiving end of an IRS inquiry, but the quickest way to get their attention is to not pay your taxes or not file at all! We are really good at our jobs, but we haven’t quite managed to get tax returns to materialize out of thin air.