Wale Ogunleye Aims to Help Generations of Athletes on PlayersTV

Liam McKeone
Wale Ogunleye
Wale Ogunleye /

Wale Ogunleye played in the NFL for 11 years. He was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler with the Miami Dolphins. He earned $35 million over the course of his career. Now in the second stage of his life as the head of the Athletes and Entertainers division for UBS, Ogunleye wants to help others avoid the same mistakes he made during his playing days.

"I was an alpha, and I didn’t like to admit when I didn’t know things," Ogunleye told The Big Lead. "One of those things were my finances."

A lack of financial literacy is a problem that can ruin lives, especially for professional athletes. Many enter the professional world without a great understanding of finances because, as Ogunleye put it, financial jargon can be tough to understand without an extensive education. Instead, they rely on the people around them to figure it out: advisors, managers, and CPAs. But how can they know they put their trust in the right people if they can't grasp the finer points of what's being discussed? What if they don't know it until it's too late and suddenly they're on the front page of the news after going bankrupt?

Ogunleye didn't realize he had put his trust in the wrong people until he received his MBA at the George Washington University School of Business after his football career was over. It was then he decided to change the people he surrounded himself with and met with UBS to discuss the financial future of himself and his family. Ogunleye said UBS was focused on how he could create generational wealth for his family with the money he had, to create a viable financial future for his family. That was the moment he realized there had to be a way for UBS to get that kind of messaging out to athletes at large.

The seed was planted, and a few years later Ogunleye helped found the Athletes and Entertainers division at the company. The department grew under Ogunleye, and he says he now works with a team of 27 advisors. Ogunleye doesn't work personally with any athletes, which suits him; he's the type of person who takes pride in finding the right match between client and consultant, giving both parties everything they need to succeed.

Now, Ogunleye has an opportunity to accomplish his goal and reach a wide audience with PlayersTV.

PlayersTV is an athlete-owned media and entertainment network, the first of its kind. Over 50 athletes are invested in the company, including big names like Chris Paul, Travis Kelce, Ken Griffey Jr., and Dwyane Wade. It is available on services such as YouTubeTV and distributed across nearly 300 million global households. It is a unique entity, a company that not only gives athletes a sense of ownership and ability to take back control of the narrative but one that creates content by athletes for athletes. It's a place, Ogunleye says, where they can discuss their worries and anxieties about life as a professional in an unedited way. To tell their stories the way they feel it should be told.

The company approached UBS with a big-picture plan, and it turns out Ogunleye fit perfectly into what they had in mind for a partnership. He has been tapped as host for a brand-new original show called Long Game, in which he interviews athletes about their personal journeys through entrepreneurship, financial wealth, and building a legacy.

"I wanted to get away from those stereotypes and the biases," he explained. "You’ve heard it before, the comment 'Shut up and dribble.' That comment just stings in so many different ways, but looking at this segment of these athletes and entertainers, they are some of the most thought-provoking people, the most caring people, and at the end of the day these people are highly-driven. Whatever they put their minds to, they are very successful at.

"Long Game is talking about the drive, the dedication that it takes to build a lasting legacy. We really want to show society how amazing these individuals are and it has nothing to do with just what they do in the sports world."

Ogunleye firmly believes that Long Game and Front Office, another PlayersTV show entering its second season, are curated to help athletes with financial education. Front Office is a Shark Tank-style show in which athletes gather with their finance team and hear pitches for business ideas. It draws off the experience of being an athlete-- it's hard to find any professional who hasn't had a friend or family member come to them with an alleged million dollar idea asking for a loan-- and more importantly shows what the process should look like.

"If you know anything about athletes, from the moment you step foot onto that professional field, everybody from your mother to your best friend that you grew up with comes to you with an idea. The only thing that’s going to make that idea work is your capital. Your money," Ogunleye says. "This show, we wanted to show individuals how they should be looking at business deals, and not only that but how you should be structuring the ecosystem around you that's helping you with these business deals. You should have someone double-checking. You should have numbers. It should be a business plan, not something you talked about over Thanksgiving dinner.

"Those are the collateral effects of having a show like this— we’re actually showing people how it should be done properly, especially these young men and women who have no clue what to do with all the money they have that’s coming at such fast pace."

Ogunleye sees PlayersTV as an opportunity to reach the next generation of athletes, or even the current generation, and show them that how far the boundary of what's possible can be stretched. Its mere existence proves the limitless opportunities they're capable of creating not only for themselves but for their communities, the people around them.

That's the overarching goal. The long game, if you will. For now, Ogunleye just wants to reach as many athletes as possible in the hopes that he'll help them avoid the kind of financial pitfalls that have plagued athletes for generations. It's why he decided to partner up with PlayersTV in what he calls one of his first big decisions as head of the Athletes and Entertainers Division at UBS.

"I said as long as we can create content that educates the masses around financial education, some of the things that got me confused and had me risking my finances because I had a lack of knowledge, if we can partner up and give people their medicine but it tastes good and feels good, let’s do it," Ogunleye says. "PlayersTV was the ability to give people real-life experiences around finances in a way that is edible and visually pleasing. You talk about finances, quite frankly, it’s probably the most boring subject known to man. But you throw Chris Paul in there, you throw Jackie Joyner-Kersey in there, you throw Darren Williams, you throw Mookie Betts into these conversations, it helps explain the message. If one person can learn from their experiences, we’ve done our job."