The History of The Symbolic One-Day Retirement Contract In Sports

Jerry Rice signs a symbolic one-day contract in order to retire with the San Francisco 49ers

Every once in a while, a star athlete becomes so closely associated with one particular city that their status as a local legend is recognized on a national level. These athletes become poster boys for their respective cities and are essentially as powerful and influential as politicians.

When a player ascends to this rare level, the thought of them playing in a different environment becomes perplexing. Picture a scruffier Derek Jeter in a Red Sox uniform, Tom Brady manning the helm for the Jets or, perhaps most awkwardly, Kobe Bryant tearing it up in Celtics green – oh wait, it looks like someone already did:

The Green Mamba? This is blasphemy!

Although it may be unusual, it isn’t unheard of for players who have achieved this status to be shipped off to another city, especially as their careers begin to wind down. We’ll go ahead and assume that Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady are safe, but sometimes, this tough decision must be made as soon as a player’s name recognition begins to outweigh their actual performance.

In recent years, it has become commonplace for franchises in this predicament to extend one-day contracts to their former star players so that they may retire with the team that defined their careers. This warmhearted gesture enables professional careers to come full circle and it symbolically etches them in franchise history forever. Today, it was announced that Osi Umenyiora, 2x Super Bowl champion, will be the next player to retire on a one-day contract when he re-signs with the New York Giants this summer.

Osi Umenyiora hugs Flava Flav after winning Super Bowl XLVI

History of The One-Day Contract


Clearly, this symbolic contract is most popular in the NFL. In fact, so many teams have joined in on this trend that Sports Pickle wrote a satirical article about Brian Urlacher signing a one-day retirement contract with the Green Bay Packers so he could “go out as a winner”.

We have yet to see a contract like this in the NBA, but there’s no doubt that the tradition will carry over as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Who knows, maybe Paul Pierce will be the first NBA player to sign a one-day retirement contract with the Celtics? We’re all for this becoming a tradition, as it seems like an awesome way to pay homage to some of the greatest athletes across all sports.