We all know that professional athletes make obscene amounts of money for basically playing a game. Their salaries even get an extra boost from signing bonuses, performance incentives, and personal appearance fees. Savvy sports agents have become pro’s in their own right by insuring that the athletes they represent rake in some pretty incredible profits. Couple that with some not-so-savvy sports organizations and you get the perfect storm to brew up some very interesting, and weird, clauses in sports contracts. Check out this list of weird clauses in sports contracts and the athletes who are making the big bucks from them.
1. Bobby Bonilla
In 2011, former New York Mets outfielder, Bobby Bonilla, went back on the Mets payroll at the ripe old age of 48. Bonilla was signed by the team in 1992 and he turned out to be a bust. He then returned to the team in 1999 and wasn’t any better the second time around so the Mets waived him in 2000. What’s so weird about that? Well at that point, the Mets still owed Bonilla $5.9 million in guaranteed salary. Bonilla’s agents worked out a deal with the Mets where he would defer the salary if the team would pay him $1,193,248.20 every July 1 from 2011 to 2035. Not a bad deal for someone who was so bad the team basically paid him to go away.
In 1984, the Los Angeles Express of the USFL tried to lure Young away from the NFL despite not having the cash reserves that the NFL did. Eventually, the Express managed to sign Young by paying $34.5 million of his 10-year, $40 million deal in the form of an annuity. The USFL folded back in 1986, but the annuity is still paying off until 2027, when Young will bank a $3.173 million check.
3. John Lackey
Now here’s a contract in which the organization got he upper hand on an athlete. The Boston Red Sox signed starting pitcher John Lackey to a 5-year, $82.5 million deal. But Lackey had a pre-exisiting elbow injury that left the Red Sox a bit worried about his future health. So they came up with a way to “cover their butts” so to speak. The contract stated that if Lackey missed any significant time due to surgery on his pre-existing elbow injury during the first five years of the contract, the Red Sox would gain a club option for the 2015 season in which Lackey would have to pitch for the Major League minimum salary. Nicely done Red Sox.
4. George Brett
In 1984, Kansas City Royals co-owner Avron Fogelman needed a little extra incentive to get George Brett to re-sign with the team. Fogelman, who had made his fortune as a lawyer and real estate baron in Memphis, decided to offer Brett part ownership of one of his apartment developments. Brett received a guaranteed cash flow of $1 million from the 1,100-unit Memphis apartment complex and retained the right to sell his 10-percent stake to the Royals for $2 million. This has to be one of the stranger deals in MLB history.
In the wake of the Barry Bonds steroid scandal, the San Francisco Giants wanted to protect themselves against future legal issues concerning one of their players. In 2007, the Giants negotiated a deal with Bonds that would allow them to release Bonds or convert his contract to a non-guaranteed deal if he came under indictment for a crime. In addition, the club contractually severed its relationship with Bonds’ personal trainers and wrote in the deal that said trainers were no longer allowed in team facilities. Again, it looks like the organization got the upper hand on the athlete in this situation.
6. Billy Beane
In 2002, general manager Billy Beane signed a three-year extension with the Oakland Athletics. In his contract, he negotiated a clause that would allow him to opt out of the deal if the team were sold. Naturally, in April 2005, a new ownership group bought the team. Rather than opting out and leaving the team, Beane took the opportunity to negotiate another four-year extension that would take him through the 2012 season. In addition to giving him cash, the contract also set Beane up as a minority owner of the Athletics with a 4% share of the club.
7. Michael Jordan
In 1993, many people wondered how Jordan could leave basketball, and all of the money, behind in favor of playing minor league baseball. As it turns out, he didn’t. At the time, Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf also owned the Chicago White Sox, the team Jordan was playing for in the minors. Even though Jordan was technically retired from basketball, Reinsdorf was still paying Jordan his $4 million salaries for the Bulls seasons he missed in addition to paying him to play baseball.
8. Ichiro Suzuki
In July 2007, Suzuki signed a deal with the Seattle Mariners that guaranteed him $17 million a year. But that’s not all this five-year contract extension promised him. The deal also included, among other perks, four round-trip airline tickets to Japan each year and the services of an interpreter and trainer throughout the season. It also included a housing allowance for each year of the deal. You wouldn’t think a guy pocketing $17 million a year would need someone to pay for his rent and travel, but good for him for getting someone else to foot the bill.
9. Alex Rodriguez
Nothing comes free at the new Yankee Stadium, not even if you’re the team’s biggest star. The 10-year contract Alex Rodriguez signed in December 2007 guarantees him $275 million in cash, but he doesn’t get any free tickets. Instead, he gets the option of purchasing four Legends Suite or comparable season tickets each year. So if you’re looking for Yankees tickets, don’t call A-Rod.
The Boston Red Sox thought that Curt Schilling was looking a little pudgy, so when they re-signed him to a one-year deal worth $8 million before the 2008 season, they included a clause in his contract which would encourage him to keep off those extra pounds. The clause stated that Schilling could pick up an extra $2 million if he made weight at six random weigh-ins over the course of the season. Schilling picked up a $333,333 check each time he didn’t tip the scales too far.
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