You don't need a law degree to know that contracts are complicated. But in the world of professional sports, where agents and managers look to sweeten deals beyond multimillion-dollar salaries and teams try to protect their valuable assets, it can mean some bizarre contract provisions.
1. NO INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL.
When the Sunderland soccer squad signed Stefan Schwarz in 1999, they had more to worry about than the standard hazardous activities prohibitions. Sunderland noticed that one of Schwarz’s advisors had booked a seat on a Virgin Galactic space flight. Concerned he might invite Schwarz along, they insisted the player never leave Earth’s atmosphere. He ended his career in 2003; we’re all still waiting for commercial space travel.
2. COOKING CLASSES.
Rolf-Christel Guie-Mien had a relatively straightforward request of Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt soccer team. If he signed, he wanted the club to pay for cooking classes for his wife. What this said about the culinary skills of Mrs. Guie-Mien was not reported at the time.
3. NO STRIP CLUBS.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant had what could be characterized as a character flaw. The Star-Telegram reported in 2012 that Bryant was in legal hot water for an alleged assault committed against his mother. The incident came after Bryant was already heavily criticized for a rambunctious personal life. To help course-correct, the Cowboys mandated a strict no-alcohol, no-strip club policy, as well as a midnight curfew. In 2014, owner Jerry Jones confirmed the rules were still in effect.
4. THE END-OF-THE-WORLD CLAUSE.
Rick Mirer spent his first years as an NFL quarterback during the 1993-94 season getting heckled by his Seattle teammates, but not for the usual rookie reasons. Word had leaked that Mirer’s contract specified he get paid even if humanity faced “the end of the world.” In this scenario, Mirer was apparently looking for a guarantee if human annihilation canceled sports. League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue wound up rendering the contract void, but not due to apocalyptic precedent—he didn’t like Mirer’s insistence that he get a $3 million bonus if the Seahawks won just one more game (for a total of three) than their dismal 2-14 record from 1993.
5. NO EATING CRACKERS IN BED.
At the turn of the century, baseball players didn’t have the amenities enjoyed by modern players. Many, in fact, had to share a hotel mattress with a teammate while traveling for road games. This detail prompted Ossee Schreckengost to make an unusual request before signing his new contract with the Philadelphia Athletics: he insisted that pitcher Rube Waddell not eat animal crackers in bed. “I didn’t mind the flat crackers so much,” Schreckengost said, “but for a whole week last year I woke up with elephants’ tusks and cowhorns stickin’ ‘tween my ribs.”
6. ALLOWING MICHAEL JORDAN TO PLAY BASKETBALL.
Between endorsements, ratings, and sneaker sales, it would’ve been catastrophic for anything bad to happen to Michael Jordan during his 1990s NBA heyday. That’s why the Chicago Bulls wanted to adhere to standard contract language preventing Jordan from playing in any pick-up basketball games—or any game outside of practice. But Jordan insisted on a “for the love of the game” clause that explicitly allowed him to shoot hoops whenever and wherever he felt like it. While teams still aren’t happy about it, an increasing number of players are being granted the exemption.
7. A GUN SHOP GIFT CARD.
In college football, it’s the coaches who have to negotiate contracts—and receive the perks of big-time athletics. In 2012, University of Texas Longhorns coach Mack Brown asked for (and got) an additional $60,000-a-year post as the school’s chairman of the golf club. He also demanded a $750 gift card to an Austin gun shop.
8. FACEBOOK MONITORING.
AC Milan is taking no chances with talented soccer standout Mario Balotelli. While they want his on-field talents, his sideline behavior has drawn negative attention. In addition to playing with fireworks, Balotelli has invited controversy with politically charged social media postings. In an effort to maintain his focus, Milan officials will be supervising his Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as monitoring his blood-alcohol levels and frowning at “extravagant haircuts.” The “good behavior clause” is said to be modeled after Italian Air Force requirements.
9. LOCKERS FOR THE KIDS.
The Toronto Blue Jays were so interested in the pitching services of Roger Clemens in 1996 that they agreed to allow his sons to practice in the Toronto Skydome, as well as keep lockers right next to their father’s in the clubhouse. The practice seemed to pay off, as Kacy Clemens was drafted to the Houston Astros in 2013. (He elected to attend the University of Texas instead.)
10. REQUIRED DRUNKENNESS
Ray “Slim” Caldwell had been bouncing around the majors for years before being picked up by the Cleveland Indians in 1919. While extremely talented, Caldwell had a reputation for being a heavy drinker and night owl. Before the Indians took him on, manager Tris Speaker insisted on an unusual deal: Caldwell would have to get drunk after every game, rest the next day, train the third, and pitch again the fourth. The regimented boozing paid off: He wound up having a 5-1 season.