The average NFL career lasts a mere 6 years, according to the league. And as is the case with other pro athletes, despite hefty multi-million dollar contracts, many find themselves broke within years of retirement. One study, conducted by the Department of Labor Services, estimates a bankruptcy rate among NFL players of between 15 and 40 percent after retirement.
Ross leveraged his own success in drafting the program. The self-made billionaire’s empire consists of a massive real estate portfolio developed by Related Companies, ownership through Related of Equinox Fitness, and venture capital firm RSE Ventures, which has invested in everything from drone racing to restaurant brand Momofuku. Leaders from all of those businesses have been on tap.
“To be able to shadow these business millionaires and billionaires is an amazing opportunity,” said Jelani Jenkins, Dolphins linebacker. “When I saw the All-Star guest speakers we had, I was eager to learn from them, take notes … absorb as much as I can.”
For the executives, it’s also a win. “I do think it’s a great way of giving back, but I also think as a brand with fitness at its core, we speak a common language and I think a lot of these athletes would be great employers for Equinox,” said Harvey Spevak, CEO of Equinox, from the fitness company’s Manhattan headquarters. “People who are naturally experienced playing on a team are going to make for pro employees.”
Dolphins long snapper John Denney said he could potentially be interested in Equinox and what they are doing with their Blink franchise. “It’s all about who you know in this world. This is a great opportunity to meet a lot of people who can help in the future,” he said, standing in front of machinery inside an Equinox club.
For others, it’s about mentorship, and helping educate the players about their industry. “They’ve been asking amazing questions. One of the players was asking me the difference between building with steel and concrete,” said Bruce Beal, president of Related Companies, from Hudson Yards. Beal has first right of purchase of the Dolphins when Ross is ready to step away.
While the Dolphins are currently the only team involved, half-way through the week the players were already voicing hopes that others in the league will one day get similar opportunities. “I hope to see this grow through the league and give more guys the opportunity to experience things like this. Football can only take you so far – you really have to have a plan after that,” he said.