The 5 Most Bizarre Contract Clauses in Sports

If you think that creativity and sports contracts cannot go together, your opinion may drastically change after reading this article. Although many professional sport leagues adopt standard player contracts, there is always some room for a little bit of negotiation.

Here is a list of the five most creative, ridiculous and funny clauses in sports where players, agents and general managers blended imagination with a tiny bit of absurdity.


#5 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic “The King Who Never Was”


Do you remember when Zlatan Ibrahimovic said goodbye to Paris Saint-Germain and suddenly joined Manchester United in the Premier League last year? Well, something in the middle happened that not many people know about…

Even if you are the most die-hard soccer fan, there is little to no chance you have ever heard about a fourth-division German club called Rot-Weiss Oberhausen.

Despite the lack of prestige and financial resources, the club director, Frank Kontny, formalized an offer for the dominant Swedish striker that included a clause where Ibrahimovic would have become “King of Oberhausen.” In addition, the club’s stadium would have been named in his honor.

It was certainly a “royal” offer, but not enough to convince him.


#4 – Luis Suarez and his “Legal Dog Mouth Guard”


If you were watching Italy v. Uruguay in 2014 during the World Cup qualifying stage, you might have thought for a second that you were watching an episode of Walking Dead.

After scoring 31 goals in 33 games and winning the Premier League Golden Boot, Luis “Cannibal” Suarez bit again an opponent for the third time in his career. Repercussions? Other than being banned four months from any soccer related activities, Suarez’s new contract with Barcelona allegedly included a “no biting clause.”

Although Josep Maria Bartomeu, president of Barcelona, has told CNN that Suarez’s contract does not contain such a clause, rumors are still circulating about the veracity of his statement.

In fact, for a recidivist like Luis Suarez, it was either a clause like that or a weekly appointment with Cesar Milan.


#3 – Roy Caldwell “Pitch, Drink, Sleep, Train and Repeat”


In the realm of the most ridiculous clauses, there is one dated 1920 that will probably surprise you more than others. The protagonist was Roy Caldwell, a pitcher for the Indians who had as much talent on the field as alcohol problems off the field.

Instead of sending him to an alcohol rehab center or fining the player for his erratic behaviors, the Indians contracted a specific clause in Caldwell’s 1920 contract that forced him to get drunk after every game he pitched.

You may wonder how he could train with the team the very next day. Well, the solution was very simple: Under his contract, Caldwell was allowed to be so drunk that he would not need to show up for practice the very next day, but he could rejoin the team two days after and pitch again on the fourth day.

That year, Caldwell recorded a 20-10 season, his very best since he joined the MLB, and the Indians were World Series Champions.

There is an old saying that goes, “if you can’t change it, leave it.” It could not be more accurate in this situation.


#2 – Giuseppe Reina “I’m gonna pick up the pieces and build… a Lego House”


Clarity and specificity are fundamental aspects in the formation of a contract, especially if your client is a former German striker who scored 43 goals in 9 seasons, playing for three different teams in Bundesliga.

When Giuseppe Reina signed for Arminia Bielefeld, his contract included a clause where the team would build a new house for every season he played with them.

Apparently, Reina and his agent had the brilliant idea not to define the term “house” in the contract. The result was catastrophic. For the following three seasons, the team delivered him three model houses made of Lego.

If you think this is funny, try to imagine how he can feel every time Ed Sheeran comes on the radio…


#1 – Roberto Martin Antonio Bonilla and his “Bobby Bonilla Day”


Imagine to be a left fielder in the MLB and your team’s general manager wants to release you; in exchange, he offers you $1.19 million every July 1 for twenty-five consecutive years with the first installment starting ten years from now (just to put everything into perspective, you would end up with $29.8 million). Would you accept it? If you think this is pushing too much the boundaries of reality, you would be shocked after reading the story of Bobby Bonilla.

The former MLB player for the New York Mets was on a verge of being released before the 2000 season and the Mets owed him $5.9 million under his contract.

The Mets negotiated with his agent, Dennis Gilbert, a deferred-money deal with an 8 percent annual interest through a life insurance company. The first installment started July 1, 2011, and will continue until 2035.

Pretty crazy, eh? He might not have had the most prominent baseball career, but he can certainly thank the Mets for giving him this lucrative deal, establishing his famous “Bobby Bonilla Day” and sponsoring every year his 4th of July party.


A graduate of Farmingdale State College with a B.S. in Sports Management and current second-year student at Touro Law Center. Born and raised in Varese, Italy. DIII soccer and golf player. 360-degree sports fan with a burning passion for soccer and basketball.