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Is A Pro Sports Contract Worth Your Freedom?

Submitted by on June 26, 2010 – 10:14 am5 Comments

Carolina Panthers Wide Receiver Steve Smith is facing that question—sort of.

Smith, a shining star in the league and four-time Pro Bowler, has found himself in the middle of a peculiar situation. While playing flag football in an adult YMCA league, Smith suffered a broken arm, arousing much speculation and suspicion as to what the team may do about it.

Most professional athletes have clauses in their contracts which stipulate they will not play their respective sports or engage in other potentially risky activities for the duration of their tenures as players.

Similar issues arose back in 2006 after Ben Roethlisberger‘s motorcycle accident, as the quarterback had been riding without a helmet which later turned out to be the least of his problems.

Much speculation surrounded Kobe Bryant after his now infamous hop over an Aston Martin back in 2008. Bryant later suggested that the widely-viewed stunt was fake and therefore within the terms of his contract.

Adding more controversy to Smith’s situation is the fact there was slight ambiguity at first as to how he broke his arm. At one point, it was believed Smith was playing flag football with kids at his summer youth camp (which probably would have been considered more excusable and forgivable). He now says he asked the team to keep quiet so that he could reveal the truth himself.

According to the NFL, Smith has expressed some remorse for what happened, but not for choosing to enjoy himself by playing the game he loves during the offseason.

“Obviously, I put my team and myself in a bad situation by playing,” Smith said. “But that wasn’t my intention and wasn’t what I thought the outcome was going to be.”

Later, in a radio interview, Smith expressed the lesson he’s learned from this controversy.

“I’m going to sit in my bubble. That’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my career,” he said. “That would be better for everybody.”

Is this the price of athletic glory and fame? Sitting in one’s “bubble” for an entire career? Does your life, in a sense, belong to the organization that pays your salary? What exactly constitutes a risk as far as the contract is concerned? These seem to be the burdens of today’s professional athletes. Of course, they sign these contracts of their own accord (and while probably more concerned with the enormous sums they make than the other various clauses).

It certainly seems keeping one’s self out of harm’s way, even the harm which could come from a friendly game of flag football, is a small price to pay in exchange for the millions so many pro athletes make a year.

Smith will miss the start of training camp, but is expected to make a full recovery before the start of the season and may avoid serious punishment by the team.

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