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Last January, Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
While this would be impressive by itself, what’s also notable is that the Mets let him try. Athletes, unlike us average employees, are limited by their employers in terms of what personal interests they can pursue outside their sport.
Most pro athlete contracts have strict language that forbids them from personal activities that pose a serious risk of injury. Ignoring these terms can be considered a breach of contract on the player’s part.
While the restrictions vary by league and team, there are some activities that show up often. Teams don’t want their players boxing or wrestling, understandably. Athletes usually have to wait for retirement if they want to hang glide, skydive, fly planes or race cars. It’s not just daredevil sports. Contracts also can forbid common activities like scuba diving, motorcycle riding and skiing.
Sometimes contract language is so broad it allows for breaches if players injure themselves playing other sports, even recreationally. In Dickey’s case, his contract with the Mets didn’t have language about mountain climbing, but the team still sent a strongly worded warning to his agent.
Examples of how athletes at their peaks have breached their contracts off the field:
At this point, you’re probably wondering about Ben Roethlisberger. After his motorcycle accident in 2006, many assumed that Ben, who was riding a very powerful sport bike without a helmet, would be in trouble with the Steelers. The team, however, doesn’t specifically bar activities in its contracts, instead stating breach is from injuries stemming from risky behavior. They had previously advised his agents that the bike habits could pose a serious risk, but that was all they could do.
Roethlisberger ended up avoiding a breach when he was able to return to the team the following season. It would have been an interesting situation if he couldn’t play the next season, just months after guiding the team to a Super Bowl win. Would the Steelers have found him in breach and cut him, after stern warnings, or kept their franchise player? What should they have done?
Bill Sayer is a financial analyst in the insurance industry and holds a degree in economics. A native of Upstate New York, Bill enjoys watching college football, the NFL, NHL and Premier League soccer from his home inPalmyra. Have a suggestion, link or question?