Fast Company

Incentive Clauses Gone Bad

Incentive clauses are an integral part of the sports world -- and often go awry.

1. The Big Man Blues

The NFL suspended New Orleans Saints lineman Jamar Nesbit for four games for testing positive for a possible masking agent for steroids. But Nesbit may have been taking the substance, an over-the-counter diet pill, for its stated purpose. He had a weight clause in his contract that may have caused him to lose sight of the larger goal of staying healthy and on the field.

2. The Spinners

Tennis stars such as Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, and Rafael Nadal have all suffered injuries that forced them to miss action. Is it because they're competing too often? While the total number of required tournaments has been reduced in recent years, the way players are ranked encourages them to enter more top events or be penalized.

3. The Cheaters

The most famous scandal in sports history, the 1919 Black Sox had its roots in an incentive clause, at least as dramatized in the classic movie Eight Men Out. In the film, White Sox owner Charles Comiskey cheated pitcher Eddie Cicotte (played by David Strathairn) out of a $10,000 bonus. In truth, he participated in fixing the World Series due to a teammate's coaxing.

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