There was a seismic shift in sports contracts a few decades ago. Back then, players played for a combination of the love of the game and a league-minimum salary. In the 50's some players still worked jobs in the off-season to make ends meet.
Well that all changed and currently athletes are some of the highest paid people on the planet. It makes sense of course, they're bringing in huge streams of revenue, so they should get a nice piece of the pie. But beyond money, there are other demands players and their respective teams make in the contract. Reaching a certain point in their career grants players certain perks. Relocating is very stressful so many of the best players insert no-movement clauses into their agreements. At a certain age you want to put up roots and hopefully have your kid attend the same school, these clauses can help.
The owners can insert clauses of their own. They invest quite a bit of money into fragile human bodies and want as much of a guarantee as possible. They love to add restrictions into a contract keeping their prized competitors far away from anything that could cause and injury and lose valuable playing time.
Very common are performance bonuses. In sports, motivation is half the battle, and there's a fear that if an athlete already has guaranteed millions, they might not show that same drive and determination that got them there. A few million more can be earned for an exceptional performance, which is a small price to pay for a winning team.
But we aren't discussing any of the usual clauses of course. We're talking the downright weird ones. Players who make money for facial hair. Managers who force their players to engage in activities you are likely to see on "Fear Factor". All of the crazy things that are bound to happen when millions of dollars are at stake for a "game".
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10 Rollie Fingers and the Snidely Whiplash
Charles Finley owned the Oakland Athletics in the 70’s and was notorious for his ticket-selling schemes. After several players protested Reggie Jackson's training camp beard by not shaving themselves, Finley decided to offer a $300 bounty to the player who could grow the ultimate mustache. Now, $300 was a nice sum of money for a ball player in the 70’s and Fingers jumped at the chance. He went all out with his “Snidely Whiplash” that would look right at home in a trendiest hipster coffee shop today.
Fingers won the prize and as an unexpected bonus, he kept the ‘stache as his trademark.
9 Bobby Bonilla is a financial genius
The Mets never learn. After a poor showing by Bonilla for their club in 1992, they threw more millions at him in 1999. He was terrible again and the Mets let him go the year after. However, $5.9 million was guaranteed. In the deal of a lifetime, Bonilla deferred his salary for 11 years and received ample compensation for doing so. Instead of just under $6 million, he was offered $1.193 million every year from 2011 to 2035!
Bonilla turned two terrible performances into a sweet payday for 24 years!
8 Baron Davis and low expectations
The L.A. Clippers are another team with a mediocre history. Their expectations were so low that the winning bonus they included into Baron Davis’s contract was pathetically modest. He would earn another cool million if he could manage to appear in 70 games and have his club win just 30 of those! Think about that. A million bucks to show up "most" of the time and win less than half of the time.
Davis “over-achieved” by playing in 75 games but unfortunately the Clippers were the Clippers and they managed just 29 wins.
7 Teach my wife...please
Rolf-Christel Guie-Mien signed with Eintracht Frankfurt with a request that deserves a slow-clap from husbands around the world. Obviously thinking about settling into a new home and all of the details that go into a new happy life, he inserted a clause that would provide his wife with cooking classes. What a guy.
I’m assuming as a free agent soccer player, cooking classes won't break the bank. Perhaps the contract obligated HER to take the classes? If so, one more slow clap from the boys to this brave man. Bravo Rolf, bravo.
6 Michael Jordan loves the game
NBA GMs can’t have their expensive players rolling an ankle playing some street ball. To protect against this, a common clause is inserted to prohibit any basketball participation not done for the respective club. But Michael Jordan is above that. He inserted a “love of the game” clause into his contract allowing him to play any damn time he liked. Jordan could have been a ringer for his cousin's office-basketball game if he wanted to.
How fair is that? The greatest player in the game also got to practice more basketball than the rest of the league! Not too fair.
Does this mean if I throw a basketball at Kobe when he’s walking down the street he’ll have to swat it away with a golf club or tennis racket in fear of breaking his contract? If that's the case, fans of opposing teams sure can make life miserable by gently tossing basketballs at opposing players on the street.
5 Derek Jeter is his own GM
Derek Jeter included a player-option year at the end of his 2011-2013 contract for $8 million. Makes sense as he’s a superstar, and should be entitled to come back to a team that would love to have him. (A bargain as they signed him after that for $12 million). But the most interesting part of his “option” year is that he included an extra “buyout” clause of $3 million. So Jeter could negotiate with himself, drive a hard bargain, decide to not play, and then reward himself with a completely random $3 million.
Jeter might have a future career as an agent.
4 How to make a marriage work
Troy Glaus and his wife are both passionate athletes. His wife Ann loves competing in Equestrian events, and he supports her like a great husband should. Ann realized that they needed to compromise while he had the big money window of professional baseball open, and she switched from three-day eventing to a less demanding activity. The grind of the baseball season didn’t leave her enough time to train at the level she wanted.
Troy honored her compromise by including her into his contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his $45 million deal, he snuck in a sweet little bonus of $250,000 each year for “personal business expenses”. This of course went to his wife’s equestrian passions, whether Arizona knew that or not.
Troy’s efforts were rewarded as the couple is still happily married. He enjoys his retirement and she enjoys the horses.
3 No space travel for you
Footballer Stefan Schwarz signed with Sunderland, but they included a very limiting clause to his deal. After they heard of his desires to leave Earth for the ultimate joy ride in space, they decided to stop any future star trek. They included a stipulation that poor Schwarz would have to remain on planet Earth for the duration of his contract, obviously setting a precedent along the way.
Schwarz must have been devastated to stay on Earth and make $4 million pounds playing football with a bunch of boring Earthlings. Just think of how far he could kick a ball in space.
2 War - and I’m outta here
Bernd Stange took a job as Iraq’s national football coach in 2002. He must have been watching a lot of CNN at the time because he requested an out-clause if a war happened to break out. He was also given the right to refuse to answer any political questions in interviews.
It turns out Stange totally jinxed Iraq and a war DID break out with the United States. He dodged a bullet there and quickly exercised his very strange clause to get the heck out of there. Hey, he didn't get to where he is by being an idiot.
1 A player has got to have balls
Eccentric Cardiff City owner Sam Hammam wanted to make sure his new players had the right stuff. He expected dedication and absolute buy-in for his team. So much so that he inserted a special clause into Spencer Prior’s contract. The clause demanded that Prior eat sheep testicles before he was allowed to play a game. Hammam is not a savage of course; he offered that Prior could use “lemon, salt and parsley” to enhance the taste of sheep testicles.
But Prior shouldn’t complain, it’s probably a delicacy in many places around the world. And besides, some poor kids don’t have any sheep testicles to eat at all!
It turned out to all be a prank by Hammam, as he grinned and told Prior after eating the plate that it was in fact just chicken. Perhaps Hammam was testing Prior to see how committed he was to his team. In that case, he sure passed with flying colors!
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