Do you recall how then-St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Marc Rzepczynski sustained an injury around his left eye in 2013? What about the time Ben Roethlisberger broke both his nose and jaw in 2006? At a golf outing during spring training, Rzepczynski’s left eye was hit by a ricocheted golf ball and Roethlisberger was involved in a serious motorcycle accident that required hours of surgery. These unfortunate events occured while the aforementioned athletes engaged in a sport/activity outside of their respective professions - a major concern amongst Major League Soccer (MLS), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL) and its teams. The three leagues negotiated clauses pertaining to such activities in their respective collective bargaining agreements (CBAs):
(MLS) Article 16 - Participation in Hazardous Activities and Other Sports Prohibited
(MLB) Schedule A, Uniform Player’s Contract - Other Sports 5.(b)
(NFL) Appendix A, Section 3 NFL Player Contract - Other Activities
The goal of these provisions is to prevent injury or the hindering of a player’s skill outside of their employment. While the overarching goals of each provision are similar, the language used in the NFL’s provision differs compared to that of MLS and MLB.
First, upon examination of the opening lines of MLB and MLS’s provisions, you will notice the similarities both in their language and their fundamental agreement. Article 16 reads, “The Player and MLS acknowledge and agree that the Player’s participation in other sports or activities may impair or destroy his ability and skill as a soccer player. Accordingly, the Player agrees that he will not engage in sports or activities which constitute a substantial danger to his health or safety (including, but not limited to…)” (p. 48). Similarly, section 5.(b) of MLB’s Uniform Player’s Contract says, “the Player and the Club recognize and agree that the Player’s participation in certain other sports may impair or destroy his ability and skill as a baseball player. Accordingly, the Player agrees that he will not engage in…” (p. 281). Ultimately, these provisions are bilateral agreements between the athletes and their respective leagues. Both parties acknowledge that participating in the cited activities could hinder the ability and skill of an athlete and the athletes therefore agree to not participate in those activities.
In contrast, the NFL’s provision mandates that its athletes do not participate in activities that could potentially involve a significant risk of personal injury. In addition, unlike MLS and MLB athletes, NFL Players don’t agree to not participate in those activities but they agree that the Clubs possess the right to enjoin its players from such activities. Section 3 of the NFL’s player contract reads:
Without prior written consent of the Club, Player will not play football or engage in activities related to football otherwise than for Club or engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury. Player represents that he has special, exceptional and unique knowledge, skill, ability, and experience as a football player, the loss of which cannot be estimated with any certainty and cannot be fairly or adequately compensated by damages. Player therefore agrees that Club will have the right, in addition to any other right which Club may possess, to enjoin Player by appropriate proceedings from playing football or engaging in football-related activities other than for Club or from engaging in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury. (pg. 256)
Clearly, the NFL’s goal through this provision is for its players to refrain from potentially dangerous activities off the field, just like MLS and MLB. Though, the agreement that NFL players agreed to technically differs from the agreements made between MLS and its players and MLB and its players. Players in MLS and MLB agree not to participate in other sports or activities that may impair or destroy one’s ability and skill as a player. Players in the NFL agree to give teams the right to impose such restrictions on its players.
Lastly, each of the three provisions contain a similiar exception; with written consent from the player's team, he may participate in activities that, according to the league, "involve a significant risk of injury" or "may impair or destroy his ability and skill as a soccer/baseball player." There is only one provision though, Major League Soccer's, that includes the exemption of participating in the prohibited sports/activities as long as they're part of casual family activity. "...and that, except with the prior written consent of, or at the direction of, the Team or MLS, he will not (except for casual family activities) engage in any game or exhibition of basketball, football, baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball, hockey, lacrosse, beach soccer or other athletic sport, under penalty of such fine and/or suspension as may be imposed by the Team or MLS" (pg. 48).
Overall, the NFL, MLS and MLB provisions regarding hazardous activity/other share the same overarching principle and goal. Though, the language used in the NFL's provision differs from the others making the agreement slightly different.