Thursday, January 29, 2009

Are You Trustworthy? Sign on the Dotted Line

Just when you thought that professional sports contracts could not get any more complex, the Yankees are considering adding another wrinkle to future deals.

Due to the backlash from books written by former Yankees David Wells and Joe Torre, management may institute a contract clause forbidding the written disclosure of both negative and private information.

It isn’t enough to include hotel accommodations, personal masseuses, trainers, no-trade clauses, luxury suites, interpreters, and even a spouse’s English classes and equestrian training (true story).

Instead, privacy and trust clauses have become the rational next step toward avoiding bitterness turning into revenge written in black and white. This would have been deemed an insult decades ago, as a man’s word and trust were as important as any signed document.

It is very sad that this is what it has come to in our society, where it seems that being paid millions of dollars to play a kid’s game is not enough. Anything following a dollar sign will make athletes come running, even if it means betraying the trust of those who once respected you.

Reality television has created a monster it can’t control any longer, feeding a limitless appetite for a look into the lives of celebrities. This is where the money is in entertainment, where millions are paid for a simple photograph of kissing or arguing stars.

The Yankees, however, have enough to worry about with regards to local and national media outlets without the added worry of their privacy being exposed by a former associate. Alex Rodriguez had his marriage destroyed (deservedly so) by media reports, and many Yankee careers have been over before they began due to the inevitable NY pressures.

Keeping the happenings of one of the world’s most famous sports franchises secret is virtually impossible, so perhaps a “non-disparagement clause” is a perfect retort to Torre’s book.

The true question is… where are we headed next? Will Manny Ramirez be forced to sign a “non-unhappiness/contract-related-freak-out” clause during his negotiations in the coming months? Will Bobby Abreu be required to sign a “non-fearing-the-wall” clause before he can latch on with a team this offseason?

The Yankees in particular are known for getting very creative with the workings of contracts in order to get deals done. This is well-known following the complex workings of A-Rod’s last contract and the concession of CC Sabathia’s three-year “family-hates-New York” opt out.

It may finally be time for the Yankees to protect themselves a little bit during contract negotiations from here on out. Although it seems ridiculous at first glance, concepts like the discussed “non-disparagement clause” may be the protection that teams in the country’s largest media markets need.

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