Unsportsmanlike Conduct:
Halftime Retirement

Claire Williams | September 28, 2018

With the obvious physical risks and enormous time commitment, the pressures of a career as demanding as an NFL football player can be extremely overwhelming. Players’ loyalty to their team or fans is usually what motivates them. That, or the paycheck. In either case, that motivation will eventually not be enough to keep them on the field.

A few weeks ago, Vontae Davis (Buffalo Bills defensive back) shocked the league with his abrupt decision to ‘retire’ in the middle of a game.

At halftime, the Bills were down by 26-8. As the team headed into the locker room, Davis made the decision to tell coach Sean McDermott that he was done playing and removing himself from the game. Davis then walked out of the stadium at the start of the third quarter in his street clothes, ending his NFL career.


SOURCE: www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/vontae-davis-explains-why-he-retired-from-the-nfl-in-the-middle-of-a-bills-game/

People have speculated on whether Davis ‘retired’ because of what he said in his public statement:

“…the season is long, and it’s more important for me and my family to walk away healthy than to willfully embrace the warrior mentality and limp away too late.”

One of the main focuses of this developing story has been the debate over whether Davis gets to keep the money that he’d been promised in his recent one-year contract with the Bills. The details are as follows: $5 million contract, $1.5 million signing bonus, and $3.5 million guaranteed.

With the $1.5 million signing bonus having already been paid, there are still a lot of questions around whether Davis will get everything promised to him in his contract. However, it is important to know this is not the only agreement that is suddenly going to be called into question.

Heretik software analyzed a ‘Standard NFL Player Agreement’ to classify the contract type and then segment the contract by its clauses. This allowed for the document to be broken down into bite-sized, more understandable pieces.

After accessing the information provided, we can make confident assumptions about Davis’ potential contract outcomes. The process is simple and works with different kinds of contracts and agreements.

When we compared Davis’ player contract to that of the general NFL contract that is signed by every player, this is what will most likely happen with his contract:

Looking at the typical “Guarantee” clause between the player and respective football club (in this case, the Bills), there is very specific verbiage around the player’s refusal to perform, which happens to encompass retirement. It nullifies “Signing Bonuses,” “Base Salary,” “Guaranteed Salary,” and the entire contract. This forces the player to return the compensation already paid.

Heretik software analyzing a standard NFL player contract.

One might speculate that Davis may have thought declaring his ‘retirement’ would save him from needing to pay back the Bills the majority of what his contract awarded. However, this clause proves that his ‘retirement spiel’ does not affect the nullification of his contract.

So, he will most likely be forced to repay the Bills.

In addition to repaying the Bills, Davis may also have other contracts that tie him to different media outlets and or brand sponsorships. Now that Davis has officially retired, will his other contracts be compromised?

If Davis had endorsement deals with brands like Verizon or NFL Play 60, they are most likely contingent on his active NFL status. Since he has voided his player contract, he may have unintentionally broken those agreements as well, and could face other financial penalizations.

Hopefully future players will remember Vontae Davis’ retirement and be sure to carefully consider the obligations of all their contracts before making any abrupt, game-time decisions.



Claire is a Marketing Coordinator at Heretik. She recently graduated from Miami University Ohio with a double major in Journalism and Mandarin Chinese. Prior to Heretik, Claire worked at Amdur Productions and for Miami College of Arts and Science.​

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