Money Ball: 10 Professional Athletes That Should Be Playing For Free
The other day, we ran a blog highlighting the interesting story surrounding pro soccer player Oguci Onyewu, who recently signed a contract extension agreeing to play for A.C. Milan for free during the 2012-2013 season. He did it because he spent most of the last year sitting on the sidelines nursing an injury. In the piece, we mentioned that there are a few American athletes who could benefit from taking the same approach.
After thinking about it for a few days, we realized that rather than just mention the idea, we’d like to throw out the names of a few players that should consider playing at least one season for free. Whether they’ve suffered injuries that have kept them out of the starting lineup for extended periods of time, underachieved or done something to embarrass themselves or their franchises, we think they could benefit from playing a year pro bono.
Get out your checkbook, fellas. Next season is on you…
10. Greg Oden
Can you say injury-prone? Though he’s been in the NBA for just three years, Oden has missed the majority of two full seasons due to injury and missed long stretches of time in the one season that didn’t end due to injury. He’s still collected on the contract he got as the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, though. Giving back a year would just be the right thing to do.
9. Kwame Brown
Thankfully, the Washington Wizards got the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Maybe it’ll finally help Wizards’ fans forget about their squad picking Brown with the top pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. He was the definition of an underachiever during his time in the nation’s capital and even turned down a five-year, $30 million contract extension with the team in 2004. He’s (obviously) not with the team anymore but he owes a year to someone.
8. Milton Bradley
Everywhere he goes, trouble seems to follow. Major League Baseball’s problem child has argued with umpires, flipped off fans and even walked out of the stadium in the middle of a game. Yet, he’s gotten chance after chance because of his abilities on the baseball diamond. Rather than continuing to issue apologies, he should try and get back into the good graces of fans by putting his money where his mouth is.
7. JaMarcus Russell
What this guy did to the NFL’s Oakland Raiders was highway robbery. After getting drafted No. 1 in the 2007 NFL Draft, Russell signed a six-year, $68 million contract with $31.5 million guaranteed. He then proceeded to put in as little work as possible, gain weight and lead the Raiders to three awful seasons. The team cut him recently. If he wants to show another team that he’s worth the risk, he should make his asking price as low as possible.
6. Gilbert Arenas
Forget that Gil got a six-year, $111 million contract in 2008 after two major knee injuries. He single-handedly tanked the season for the Washington Wizards last year after it was discovered that he had kept four handguns in the Wizards’ locker room. For doing that, he should live up to his nickname, Agent Zero, and demand that he get paid $0 for winning back the Wizards’ fans next season.
5. Ben Roethlisberger
Though he was not formally charged, Big Ben put a big blemish on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFL franchise this offseason when a college student in Georgia accused him of rape. He’s set to serve a suspension at the beginning of the 2010-2011 NFL season, but we get the feeling that there are plenty of people out there waving yellow towels who are still not happy with him. Something tells us that giving back part of that eight-year, $102 million contract he signed back in 2008 could help smooth out the situation.
4. Michael Vick
Vick might have lost his chance already. He restored his name in many circles by staying clean since being released from prison in 2009 after serving time on dog fighting charges, but he probably could have cured all of his social ills by donating last season’s salary to a good cause. Oh well. There’s always next year, right?
3. Adam “Pacman” Jones
Another guy who has gotten his fair share of second chances, Pacman made national headlines in 2007 following a strip club melee involving his entourage in Las Vegas. He recently found a new home with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, a team that’s notorious for giving players a chance to prove themselves again. Just think about what Pacman would prove if he agreed to play the game he supposedly loves without collecting the check that comes along with it.
2. Barry Bonds
If Barry Bonds never plays the game of baseball again (which, for the record, is highly likely), what is your last memory of him? Probably not a good one. Think about what he could do for his legacy by coming back to bat DH for an American League team, not because he has to, but he wants to—and doing it without pay. It’d be the perfect ending to an imperfect career.
1. Tiger Woods
The PR move of all PR moves! No matter how tired the Tiger Woods saga is at this point, there’s still a large number of people who don’t like the guy. If he agreed to play this year for free—or, better yet, for a good cause—he could completely revamp his reputation and get people back on his side.