June 25, 2003

Declare Williams'Contract Null and Void: Here is a hardcore stand on Williams' motorcycle accident.

posted by rl55z to basketball at 11:36 AM - 30 comments

It is my belief that every step towards a reasoned, responsible society, where a manís word is his bond and where a manís contract is a manís word, results in the development of a greater healthier society. And when a man acts in a fashion not consistent with his honoring his obligations, then he must suffer the consequences of his failure to do so. I couldn't agree more. Or, in the words of Albert Camus.

posted by squealy at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2003

I seem to remember the Braves voiding Ron Gant's contract between the 1993-1994 season after he shattered his leg in a similar motocycle accident. Gant missed the entire season but went on to a somewhat productive comeback in CIN and STL; while ATL kept on keepin' on, and the fans didn't seem to miss him much. Unless, of course, it was Gant who drew fans to those postseason games in the early 90s. Maybe that's why there are so many blue seats at Turner Field come Octobter...

posted by herc at 02:24 PM on June 25, 2003

Damn, squealy, I was all excited. A pigskin philosopher! But that dude's talking about soccer. Now ... could he bend it like Beckham? This is a pretty basic column, but I agree. If he had the clause, the Bulls should enforce it. It sucks for Williams, but no one forced him onto the bike, I'm sure.

posted by wfrazerjr at 03:07 PM on June 25, 2003

This is a stupid point upon which to draw the line in some pie-in-the-sky appeal to "personal responsibility." When NBA players lose significant time to injuries, insurance typically pays 80 percent of the salary, so there's no direct financial hardship to the team. Though there might be some salary cap implications, Williams was still on rookie scale and making $3.7 million this year, so it's not the crushing hit that Hill's injury has been for the Orlando Magic. As this story notes, motorcycling is just one activity among many players are usually prohibited from participating in: The standard NBA contract says, "The player agrees he will not, without the written consent of the team, engage in sports endangering his safety (including professional boxing or wrestling, motorcycling, auto racing, sky-diving, and hang gliding), or any game of basketball, football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse or other athletic sport." It's specifically okay to engage in "golf, tennis, handball, swimming, hiking, softball, or volleyball." Baseball's standard contract actually excludes swimming and hiking, too. Williams is already likely to be paying consequences for his actions -- his injuries may be career-ending or career-limiting, and he hasn't gotten his first non-rookie contract yet. Trying to take his salary this year because he engaged in an activity practiced by millions of people is goofy.

posted by rcade at 05:10 PM on June 25, 2003

rcade- In reading your comment, my guess is you must play in the NBA or wish you did. Only a multi-million dollar sports player would get all huffy when talking about "personal responsibility." Further I like the way you close your comment: "Trying to take his salary this year because he engaged in an activity practiced by millions of people is goofy." HUH ? Williams has a multi-million dollar contract that specifically states no motorcycle riding. How many others of your so-called millions of people riding motorcycles have such a contract. Let me tell you, never mind multi-millions of dollars, if I had a big time six figure contract that said no motorcycles, I wouldn't go near a motrcycle, scooter or six speed bicycle. No calling for "personal responsibility" is not stupid. What Jay Williams did was stupid.

posted by rl55z at 06:05 PM on June 25, 2003

To add fuel to the irresponsible fire, Williams was also cited numerous times for reckless and excessive speeds violations (basically auditioning for 'Stupid People & Motor Vehicles, tonight on FOX5) in the past 12 months....sorry, no link, but it I heard it on ESPN (flashes pearly whites with jingle in background) (just looking for an endorsement deal because this underwriting thing blows)

posted by garfield at 06:26 PM on June 25, 2003

It's a goofy contract clause, in my book. What's next -- you have to have a personal chaperone with you at all times so you don't stay out too late? I don't think it's reasonable to try and control a player's life to that extent. Does the standard NBA contract have a clause about smoking? That said, the loss of Williams is a serious problem for the Bulls. It's not such a big deal from a salary cap point of view, but it's made it much harder (if not impossible) for them to make the trades they wanted to make. So it's a big deal.

posted by Bryant at 08:00 PM on June 25, 2003

Does the standard NBA contract have a clause about smoking? Vlade Divac hopes not.

posted by dusted at 08:26 PM on June 25, 2003

A goofy clause? In light of what happened to Williams, sounds to me like it makes a lot of damn sense. Now all we need is players that read and follow their contracts. Let me ask you this Bryant, do you think it is okay to ignore any "goofy" clause in any contract you sign?

posted by rl55z at 08:38 PM on June 25, 2003

Well, when I was working for a CMGi company, they asked me to sign a non-compete agreement. It would have prevented me from working for any company that competed with any company in which CMGi had invested. Since CMGi had investments in just about everything Internet-related at that time, that contract would have kept me from working in my field for a year. So I didn't sign it; I had it rewritten. If I had signed it, however, California labor law would have made it fairly hard to enforce. It is possible to draft an illegal contract. However! I didn't say I thought Williams should have ignored it. I said that I think it's a very bad and unreasonable clause. That doesn't mean I think (or don't think) that he should have ignored it, and it doesn't mean I think (or don't think) that it's a legal clause. It means what I said: I think it's a goofy, bad, and unreasonable clause. Do you disagree with that single statement?

posted by Bryant at 09:20 PM on June 25, 2003

For my part, yes, I agree with your statement, Bryant. But I can see why the Bulls think it's totally reasonable. They want to do everything possible to protect an investment--that is, something they spent money on to help them grow their business. Which doesn't mean it makes business sense to enforce it right down to the last letter of the contract. Why? For every pitiless guy who says, "Yeah, man! Cut him loose! It was all his fault," etc., there will be ten at least who'll think them (the owners) total assholes if they do so. (Including me.) I know lots of people already think they are, but do the Bulls really want to reinforce that perception? That has to enter their calculations here. If they pull through for Williams, they will benefit, too. Anyway, in my experience, half the motive behind hardliners' stance always seems to be their own image.

posted by jason streed at 09:53 PM on June 25, 2003

In reading your comment, my guess is you must play in the NBA or wish you did. Absolutely brilliant guess. In fact, as I read your message, I was working on my ball-handling skills. The clause that Williams violated is broken by dozens of pro athletes every day, any time one of them engages in a pick-up game without prior permission. While I'm absolutely shocked that an athlete has broken a clause in a contract (get a rope), why should it be an issue for anyone outside of Williams and the Bulls? If the team pays his salary, as I expect it will, it will be for selfish reasons, because they want him to play for them when he's healthy again. I have trouble finding a reason to be offended by that. I've never worked at a job where there wasn't a different set of rules for the most talented employees.

posted by rcade at 06:49 AM on June 26, 2003

Excellent points, Jason and rcade.

posted by Bryant at 07:16 AM on June 26, 2003

Since when is it ok to break the rules of a contract because "the clause that Williams violated is broken by dozens of pro athletes every day?" I have a clause in my contract that says I'm not allowed to do drugs. Can I break that because other people do it? Bryant, it's not an unreasonable clause exactly because of Jay's stupidity. The Bulls now have had their investment ripped out from underneath them, and it affects the whole franchise, its value and its future. You said you didn't like your non-compete agreement, and you got it changed. Good for you. Williams and his agent didn't, and he then went out and broke his contract. It's not a matter of good, bad, fair or unfair clause. It's a contract. You signed the damn thing. Live by it. One more point: if this is such a horrible clause, why have I never heard of a big drive from players and agents to get it removed?

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:05 AM on June 26, 2003

If these clauses are such a lovely idea, I wonder why more businesses don't use them. Hiring and training new employees is always a big expense, and compensating those who get injured during non-work activities cannot appeal to any employer, right? So why not curtail by force of contract how other kinds of workers spend their recreation time? For all I know, teachers, doctors, garbage collectors, engineers, and who knows what-all actually do have such clauses. I don't, though (guess I'm not worth that much!), and I don't hear about them much if that's the case with anyone else.

posted by jason streed at 09:19 AM on June 26, 2003

If it is enforced with Williams, it should be enforced all around. Anyone who plays a game of basketball or table tennis should have their contract voided.

posted by corpse at 09:34 AM on June 26, 2003

It's pretty simple, Jason: it's not too tough to replace teachers, doctors, garbage collectors and engineers. There's lots of 'em. Jay Williamses are few and far between. Plus, if a teacher falls off a motorcycle and loses a leg, he/she should still be able to perform his/her job. Not true of an athlete. Corpse: exactly. Either enforce it, or ditch the clauses.

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:43 AM on June 26, 2003

Why it isn't it removed? Because investments need protecting. No business owner in their right mind would permit an investment be subject to hazards that would render the investment fruitless. Why aren't they more prevalent? Seems like every 'standard' contract has dangerous activity exclusions, judging from the above comments. Why is the clause perfectly acceptable? Because players aren't just people playing a game. They are multi-million dollar investments(broken record). If they don't like the clause, go find another means of employment. Yeah, its intrusive and controlling, but I think jing can provide some safer alternatives. And besides, making that loot entails performing for that loot. Why isn't it enforced all the time? Who the hell knows. But it should only be enforced if the co-signee experiences damages. No injury, no problem. Its the player that should be at risk if they put themselves in harms way(however the contract defines that term), not the team.

posted by garfield at 11:36 AM on June 26, 2003

I have a clause in my contract that says I'm not allowed to do drugs. Can I break that because other people do it? If you're as important to your employer as last year's second-overall pick is to the Chicago Bulls, you can probably break any number of contractual clauses. Drugs are a poor example because you're breaking another set of rules that have nothing to do with the employer-employee relationship. I don't get the controversy here. if the Bulls have the right to ignore the terms of their own contract with Williams, and they choose to exercise that right, why is any of this an issue? It's like getting mad at an NBA coach who chooses to let his star player ignore the team curfew. He should be punished as a lesson to everyone that personal responsibility matters!

posted by rcade at 12:10 PM on June 26, 2003

When NBA players lose significant time to injuries, insurance typically pays 80 percent of the salary, so there's no direct financial hardship to the team. Sure there is no financial hardship but there is a great deal of what I'll call competitivness hardship, which is what the teams are really concerned about. A really bad NBA team may get the 2nd overall pick in the draft once in a decade. If that pick ends up crapping out it can kill a franchise's prospect of fielding a competitive team. I think NBA franchises are entirely justified in trying to protect their comptetiveness. The clause that Williams violated is broken by dozens of pro athletes every day, any time one of them engages in a pick-up game without prior permission. There are NBA players who specifically put 'love-of-the-game' clauses into their contracts. If you remember Terry Cummings, he blew out his knee but was still covered by his contract because he had a 'love-of-the-game' clause that allowed him to play pick-up games whenever he wanted. I believe Jordan had the same provision.

posted by Mike McD at 01:14 PM on June 26, 2003

Rcade, I think the difference here is you're being realistic and I'm being idealistic. Yes, big stars and important people gets perks, I agree. But I can certainly call their bosses for letting them get away with it, and the hypocrisy of putting a clause in a contract and then not following it. You think if Greg Ostertag broke his legs skydiving, someone would hesitate to void his contract? It's wrong, rcade ... THAT'S why I'm bitching. I'll be MORE pissed at the Bulls if they DON'T void his contract. As for the drugs and legality, who cares? If my boss says, "Hey, don't watch 'Touched By An Angel'!" and I agree, then (God forbid) I break that promise, it's my fault and I deserve the punishment. It's not about circumstances. It's about your word.

posted by wfrazerjr at 01:21 PM on June 26, 2003

Oh sure, the insurance company will pick up the cost. Do insurers have special access to the Fed's printing press or does their money to pay claims come from, oh I don't know, THEIR POLICYHOLDERS? So one has to wonder if the insurer for the Bulls would actually step in and pay a claim when contractually they probably (depends on their policy details, of course) don't have to. Because insurance companies aren't too much like Ebenezer Scrooge before his overnight visits, right? I can hear the laughter from their office as they read the claim form, all the way in California. Now do the Bulls want to make an investment in their future relationship with Jay Williams? That's a completely separate issue and one which, as a privately-held company, they are free to do.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:30 PM on June 26, 2003

The DL on Insurance: When insurance is purchased, there is something called an 'insuring agreement' that is agreed to inesence by the insured by binding the policy. This agreement typically includes a stipulation that the 'right of recovery' is transferred to the insurer: meaning the insured (the Bulls) doesn't decide if and how the claim will be paid.

posted by garfield at 03:45 PM on June 26, 2003

Hmmmmm ... makes it much more interesting, doesn't it? Does that mean the Bulls might lean on the insurer to pay it? Does it mean they might cover him if the insurer says no?

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:46 PM on June 26, 2003

wfrazier, you mentioned being a sports reporter yesterday, doesn't this seem like a story you could pursue? And then give us the inside skinny? (Or is my suggestion out of line? And am I asking too many questions? Or do I just need some A/C and another cup of coffee?)

posted by billsaysthis at 05:20 PM on June 26, 2003

I hope that somewhere, a thread in an insurance or contract law community weblog has deteriorated into a discussion about basketball . . .

posted by jason streed at 08:19 PM on June 26, 2003

Bill ... I'm not a sports reporter, I'm a newspaper publisher, and our paper is very small, so I don't have the staff to pursue it or an audience who would care. I will dig a bit more and see what I can find on my own, though.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:49 PM on June 26, 2003

Sorry for the misunderstanding. Hope no offense taken.

posted by billsaysthis at 11:27 PM on June 26, 2003

I hate that I know this stuff, but the Bulls have to file a claim in order for the Insurer to get involved. If they don't file a claim, they'll just pay his contract or whatever it is they do for a guy who didn't honor his end. If they do file a claim, then the insurer might refuse to pay, and most insurer's would fight it.

posted by garfield at 08:14 AM on June 27, 2003

Oh, no offense, Bill, just clarification. And for more on this, let's go back to Garfield, the Lisa Guerrero of contracts. :)

posted by wfrazerjr at 02:58 PM on June 27, 2003

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