You Can’t Retire Here

Marcus Trufant, a NFL player, announced very recently that he will retire — as a Seattle Seahawk. But Marcus Trufant was not in a Seahawks’ uniform this past year. Actually he was released in the final preseason cuts last year and ended up signing a one year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the offseason. But Trufant was and is a Seahawk at heart. Every year he played (but this past year) he wore that uniform with pride. Trufant is a Tacoma Native, attended Washington State University, and then was drafted as a first round pick by the Seahawks in 2003 (Blount). In order to retire with his pride and with the team he loved, he announced that he will sign a one-day contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Thus now he can “officially retire”.

Signing one-day contracts with teams is becoming more and more common in today’s professional sports. No longer is it seen in just football, but the MLB is allowing players to sign one year contracts more frequently. Take the instance of Hideki Matsui who signed a one-day contract with the Yankees so he could retire with his former team. A team which he had had won countless honors including being named the World Series MVP in 2009. Another case is Jerry Rice. Jerry Rice spent his last years in the NFL on multiple different teams and announced his retirement in 2005. After a year off doing other things (like Dancing with the Stars – I mean come on), he re-retired in 2006 by signing a one-day contract with the San Francisco 49s (where he had spent a bulk of his career) for a deal of $1,985,806.49. The number honored his rookie season (1985), his uniform number (80), his retirement year (’06) and the 49ers (Caccicola, 2013). Yet, Rice didn’t see any of this money, it was all for show — as are all of these one-day signings.

One-day signings are primarily for a certain type of athlete; an athlete who had spent a majority of their professional career with one team, and one that may have been an icon of that city and of that city’s sport team. The athlete is decides to sign a contract for a meaningless return, ultimately so that they can look back on their career with that team and remember how meaningful that time/team was to them. The one-day contract is a rite of passage – one that the athlete feels is important as they retire and end their professional career. I personally see it as the athlete wanting to go out on top — as a hero — with all the accolades that they may have received on that team. Some critics argue though that it is becoming too common; that athletes who had bounced around during their career, never really spent time with a single team are basically allowed to sign a one-year contract with a team of their choosing. The team they choose is the one that will define them they feel as a football player, or a baseball player. But is that really fair? To be completely honest, I’m torn on the topic.

I do believe that a lot of the one-day contracts are for the media, for the publicity and for the fame, for a majority of the athletes. That the Professional Sport leagues use these athletes as an example, to make profit off of and build their fan base and fan loyalty even more. As Guilianotti states, “elite athletes are on market-building missions when they salute crowds after victories” (Giulianotti 39) and I agree; them signing a contract with a team they feel that benefitted most from them and they benefited most off of, this signing of a contract is their salute to the crowd. Teams are willing to honor that because of the publicity it could bring. This is about athletes going out on top, and to be honored and applauded once again by the same people that witnessed them when they were at their best.

But on the other hand I do see cases like Marcus Trufant who spent almost his entire career as a Seahawk wanting to retire with a jersey on that had special meaning to him. These athletes are finishing their careers with pride and dignity, and they deserve to retire how they want – but I don’t believe everyone should have access to this. I think there needs to be guidelines for how professional sports handle it, and how they choose who deserves this honor. If there are guidelines then it is not based on the pride of the athlete who solely seeks to boost his ego. How we go about this, I’m not sure? But I think something needs to be figured out sooner rather than later.

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