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The Weirdest Ever Sports Contracts

January 8, 2019

Professional sports are big business, with millions of dollars regularly changing hands between players and management. But a giant fortune isn’t everything, it would seem.

No dogs allowed

From 2011 to 2013, Steve Novak played at forward for the New York Knicks. In that same time, he was contractually forbidden from owning a dog. Reason: Novak was extremely allergic to dog dander, and the effects of being near a dog could jeopardize his health, causing him to miss games. If Knicks management found out he’d gotten a dog, Novak would’ve faced a $100,000 fine.

Ground control

Swedish soccer star Stefan Schwarz played for a lot of European teams, including the high-profile Sunderland squad in the U.K. He signed with the team in 1999, and during contract negotiations, he casually discussed that he one day hoped to be one of the first ever “space tourists,” or non-astronauts to visit space. Sunderland management was so concerned that space tourism was so close to becoming a reality that they put in a clause that prevented Schwarz from leaving the planet while under contract with the team. (And space tourism still isn’t a thing.)

You can’t retire!

NHL defenseman Chris Pronger was named one of the league’s best ever players, an MVP in 2000 and a Stanley Cup winner in 2007. He hasn’t played since early in the 2011-12 season, but due to some weird contract stuff, he was officially an NHL player until June 2017. His last team, the Philadelphia Flyers, deferred payments he was owed as an active player, keeping his contract on the books until 2015. Then they traded the remaining balance on it to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for the rights to a few players. From 2015 to 2017, the Coyotes had to pay the all-but-technically retired Pronger $5 million per season.

To the nines

Pitcher Turk Wendell just had to wear the #99 on the back of his jersey, and he did so for the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies, and New York Mets. He felt so connected to that particular number, in fact, that when he joined the New York Mets—in 1999, no less—he successfully got a 99-cent bonus added to his $1.02 million deal. The next year, he renewed his contract for $2.05 million…plus an extra $13.99.

Who’s the Boss?

NBA great and basketball commentator Bill Walton joined the San Diego Clippers in 1979. Just before the season started, Bruce Springsteen was scheduled to play a run of seven sold-out shows at the Clippers’ home court, the San Diego Sports Arena. As part of his contract, Walton wanted eight tickets to each show. He didn’t want the team to pay for them—Walton was willing to pay full ticket price—he just wanted someone to get him those hard-to-acquire tickets.

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