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Hobbes and Contracts in Sports

October 8, 2010

In lecture, we discussed contracts and what Hobbes thought of them. Thomas Hobbes was a philosopher in the 17th century who wrote the famous book, the Leviathan. Some of the ways he described the purpose of contracts was to increase accountability and make everyone equal. The benefits of a contract were Predictability, Accountability and Equality. But Hobbes also knew that men were deceptive and would look for ways to break the contract or get around it, so they would benefit.

If you look at a couple examples of recent major sports stories regarding contracts, many of the stories do not seem very fair or equal for both parties. Take for example Gilbert Arenas,  a former all-star in the NBA. He had been grossly overpaid in his recent contract. Last January, Gilbert apparently drew a gun on one of his teammates over a bet. Arenas was suspended for the rest of his season but still had 4 years left on his contract. His team, the Washington Wizards, tried anyway possible to break the contract, not because of the gun charge, but many believe because he was not performing up to his large contract. If it had been someone like Lebron James, I’m sure they would have not tried to break the contract. This is just another example of one person (the Wizards) trying to get out a contract with another person (Arenas) to make up for their mistake.

Contract Lengths and Guarantees May Be targets in NBA Talks

This article was from yesterday talking about how NBA teams want to make sure they can get out of bad contracts. How is this fair that you can give a player X amount of money and then they get injured and can cut them and pay them nothing? This is the case in the NFL, the most violent sport in America where if you get hurt, your bank account will also take a hit. A player can sign a huge contract, break his leg and never player again and only come out with a small portion of the contract. What is the point of a contract in the first place then? I wonder what Hobbes would have thought of these agreements that can easily be broken.

What do you think Hobbes would have thought?

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3 Comments
  1. Zac Hiller permalink
    October 8, 2010 6:56 PM

    Interesting post here and I think that Hobbes would like the idea of agents and guaranteed money. Hobbes knows people will try and break contracts. Agents structure contracts that allow for change and break but with consequences for the breaker. This is the idea of guaranteed money. If the contract is broken, the player still wins. How much he wins depends on his agent. A player with a smart agent can negotiate almost 70% of the contract under guaranteed money. Take Darrelle Revis for example. His agent negotiated that 32 of his 46 million dollars was guaranteed the second he signed, regardless if he played a single game this season. Thats 70% of his contract already in his pocket! Hobbes would tell this agent job well done. Like Hobbes, Revis’ agent knew that people can break contracts and nearly bulletproofed Darrelle. Sport negotiation shows many of Hobbes principles.

  2. thacarter4 permalink
    October 9, 2010 8:13 PM

    Hobbes was mostly dealing with social contracts about the right to rule and the powers of a ruler, so it’s almost impossible to know exactly what he would think about sports contracts. But why should a team pay a player like Gilbert Arenas who commits a crime against a team mate and who get’s suspended so that he can’t play? Arenas and others should not be rewarded for their bad behavior. By the same token injured players do deserve some form of insurance but most players associations make certain provisions for them. Even if they can’t recover their full salary, injured players usually get a fair amount even though they aren’t playing.

  3. Andrew Babat permalink
    October 9, 2010 9:08 PM

    Hobbes stated that the purpose of contracts is to increase accountability and make everyone equal. In sports, this is not the case. Because contracts are guaranteed, athletes are not held accountable for their actions. Many athletes sign major guaranteed contracts, and then make poor off the court decisions, or have a decrease in production. Another point Hobbes makes is that contracts increase predictability. Although contracts prevent players from changing teams as the please, athletes production becomes more unpredictable after they sign major contracts. Therefore, Hobbes would argue professional athlete contracts are ineffective.

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