ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Monday, August 15, 2022

Kyler Murray Contract Kerfuffle

When we moved to Oklahoma, we decided not to get cable television.  As a result, the only sporting event I have watched live is the Tour de France (for whatever reason, I was able to subscribe to Peacock for free).  No regrets.  I might feel differently if any of teams Chicago team were any good, but if that day comes, I will re-visit.  Don't worry.  I'm not going to be self-righteous about this.  I have found other ways to use my time unprofitably.

Image by All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 
via Wikimedia Commons

Anyhoo, as I result, perhaps, I do not know who Kyler Murray is and I cannot comment on whether it made sense for the Arizona Cardinals to agree to pay him $230.5 million over the next five NFL seasons.  Nick Shook from Around the NFL offers this assessment of Mr. Murray's third NFL season:

At his best, Murray is a uniquely talented quarterback capable of dissecting a defense however he and coach Kliff Kingsbury desire. He's an electrifying player who is good enough to lead his team to great success; Arizona's 10-2 start last season was no fluke.

But the late-season production from both Murray and the rest of the Cardinals hasn't lived up to expectation. After spending a good portion of the 2021 campaign looking like the best team in the NFL, Arizona again entered a tailspin, losing four of its final five games -- including an inexplicable blowout defeat at the hands of the lowly Detroit Lions.

Apparently, there was some concern within the organization about Mr. Murray's level of commitment to the team, and so his contract included a requirement that he watch four hours of game tape per week.  Here's the provision in question.Screen Shot 2022-08-14 at 6.14.40 AMThis clause elicited a lot of outrage.  The schoolmarmish tone of the provision sparked accusations that the clause was racially motivated, as evidenced here and here, as though Mr. Murray, a gifted Black quarterback, lacked discipline or commitment or some other qualities that would be assumed if he were white.  There was a predictable response in conservative  media (e.g., Breitbart and the Washington Times), in which the authors found absolutely no evidence of racism -- in Mr. Murray's contract, in the NFL, or in U.S. history generally.  But Mark Wilson is a Black sportswriter, and he agrees that the clause was more about green than it was about black and white.  He points out, as have others, that Mr. Murray himself suggested that he was not a big fan of game tape, as he stated to the New York Times last year: 

I think I was blessed with the cognitive skills to just go out there and just see it before it happens . . .  I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game because, in my head, I see so much.

From Mr. Wilson's perspective, the Cardinals are investing $230 million in this athlete.  They are taking steps to make sure that he delivers on his promise.   

The Cardinals removed the clause from Mr. Murray's contract soon after it became public.  As Warren Moon pointed out, the damage is done.  As if Mr. Murray did not already have enough pressure on him, now he will also face questions about his pre-game preparations every time he throws an interception.

Now can we talk about the absurdity of paying young adults $46 million/year to play children's games when people who provide essential services -- day care workers teachers, nurses, home-health aids and other caregivers, therapists and counselors, etc. -- don't even get paid $50,000?

H/t John Wladis and my emeritus colleague, Michael Gibson.

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