Notable contract holdouts in sports history

Dez Bryant isn't happy with the Dallas Cowboys, and he is responding by doing something sure to grab the attention of his team: threatening to hold out and perhaps miss games.

Dallas slapped the franchise tag on Bryant this offseason, and the tag will stick, per NFL rules, if they don't work out a long-term deal by Wednesday. To put pressure on the Cowboys, Bryant made it known Monday that he won't report to the team without a long-term deal.

While players taking to social media to communicate their intentions might be a recent trend, players holding out for better contracts are nothing new. Here's a look at some notable holdouts in sports history.


John Riggins (1980): After rushing for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, Riggins sat out the entire 1980 season after the Redskins wouldn't give him a raise from $300,000 to $500,000. When Joe Gibbs was hired in Washington, however, he drove to Riggins' farm in Kansas and convinced the 31-year old back to play again. Riggins did and said, "I'm bored, I'm broke, I'm back." Riggins went on to win the Super Bowl XVII MVP and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

Eric Dickerson (1985, 1990): Dickerson held out twice for two different teams, and though they both ended in better contracts, the second holdout was the beginning of the end of his career. Dickerson first held out in 1985 after rushing for a record 2,105 yards the previous season. He missed the first two games before the Los Angeles Rams agreed to pay him close to $1 million per season. He was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in 1987 and staged another holdout in 1990, this time missing five games. While Dickerson got a four-year, $10 million deal out of it, he never rushed for 1,000 yards again, was traded two more times and was out of the league after the 1993 season.

Bo Jackson (1986): Tampa Bay should have known better. Jackson told the Buccaneers they would be wasting the No. 1 overall pick if they drafted him out of Auburn, but they did it anyway. Jackson stayed true to his word and refused to play for Tampa Bay; he instead played baseball for the Kansas City Royals. A year later, the Los Angeles Raiders drafted the running back in the seventh round and signed him, and a two-sport star was born.

Emmitt Smith (1993): When the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVIII, Smith led the NFL with 1,713 rushing yards but was only making $465,000. He held out for more money the following season, but owner Jerry Jones wouldn't budge. Rookie Derrick Lassic started the season in place of Smith, and the Cowboys went 0-2, losing to Washington and Buffalo. Jones finally gave Smith a four-year, $13.6 million contract, which made him the highest paid running back in NFL history. The Cowboys went on to become the first team to start the season 0-2 and then win the Super Bowl. Smith led the league in rushing again and won regular-season and Super Bowl MVPs.

Sean Gilbert (1997): Instead of playing out the 1997 season after the Washington Redskins placed the franchise tag on Gilbert, the defensive tackle turned down A five-year, $20 million offer and sat out the season. The Redskins traded him to Carolina in 1998 for two first-round draft picks, and he signed a seven-year, $46.5 million contract with the Panthers. Gilbert played well in Carolina but was never a Pro Bowler and never lived up to his lofty contract or the bounty Carolina traded to get him.

JaMarcus Russell (2007): Russell held out for more than six weeks and missed all of training camp after being the No. 1 pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2007 draft. The six-year, $68 million deal he wrangled ended up the highlight of the quarterback's career, as Russell was one of the biggest busts in league history. He was out of the league by 2009.

Darrelle Revis (2010): The star cornerback held out for 35 days, but it seemed longer and played out like a reality show because, well, the New York Jets were featured on one during his time away. Revis' holdout was a central storyline of HBO's Hard Knocks that year, with Revis' signing the Monday before the season opener the perfect bowtie to the final episode.


Jim Jackson (1992-93): The fourth overall pick out of Ohio State felt the Dallas Mavericks weren't offering him a contract commensurate with his draft position, so he vowed to never play for the franchise. He changed his tune when the Mavs eventually upped their offer, with Jackson ultimately getting paid for his entire rookie season even though he missed the first 54 games. ‎The architect of Jackson's holdout was veteran agent Mark Termini, who these days serves as an advisor to Klutch Sports' Rich Paul. The same Paul, of course, who represents a certain LeBron James.

Glenn Robinson (1994): The top overall pick had his eye on an NBA-record $100 million deal from the Milwaukee Bucks before he'd even played a pro game. After missing the entire offseason and preseason, the Purdue All-American "settled" for a rookie-record contract worth $68 million over 10 years just two days before the season opener. It was the last rookie megadeal in NBA history, as the league instituted a rookie salary scale the following season.

Juwan Howard (1994): Howard held out into the first two weeks of his rookie season with the then-Washington Bullets. Washington finally signed him to an 11-year, $36 million contract that included a costly out clause after two years. Howard used the out after an All-Star season in 1996 and became the first NBA player to sign a $100 million contract when he agreed to join the Miami Heat. The league, however, deemed the deal a salary-cap violation and voided it. Howard wound up reaching the $100 million mark when the Bullets went all-in to re-sign him.

Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic (2007): The Cleveland Cavaliers had two contract disputes with restricted free agents in one of the more recent cases of a holdout resulting in missed games. Pavlovic agreed to terms right before the season started, but Varejao didn't budge until the Charlotte Bobcats signed him to a three-year, $17 million offer sheet a month into the season. That forced the Cavaliers' hand, and they chose to match the Bobcats' offer rather than lose the big man.


Joe DiMaggio (1938): The Yankee Clipper figured he was worth a handsome raise after he hit .346 with 46 homers and 167 RBIs, finished second in the MVP voting and led the New York Yankees to a World Series title in 1937. But management balked at his demands and offered him $25,000 instead of the $40,000 range he sought. DiMaggio held out for the first four games of the 1938 season and finally accepted the team's offer. "Baseball does things to you, and when spring comes, the sun shines and you read about scores," DiMaggio later wrote about the holdout, "you forget dough and grab yourself a bat."

Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale (1966): The Dodgers' pitching stars threatened to hold out -- they even had plans to become movie actors -- unless their six-figure joint contract demands were met. But neither Koufax, who was 26-8 and won NL MVP in 1965, nor Drysdale, who was 23-12 the previous season, missed time in 1966. Koufax received a $125,000 contract, and Drysdale was paid $110,000. "But be sure to stick around for the fun the next time somebody tries that gimmick," Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi wrote in Sports Illustrated in reference to the dual holdout. "I don't care if the whole infield comes in as a package. The next year, the whole infield will be wondering what it is doing playing for the Nankai Hawks."


Mark Messier (1991): Eager to be traded out of Edmonton, where he made $1.2 million a season, Messier held out and forced a trade to the New York Rangers. He led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994 and became one of the city's more beloved athletes.

Pavel Bure (1998): Although his contract called for him to make a hefty $8 million, Bure didn't want to play for Vancouver anymore, so the talented Russian winger sat until January, when the Canucks dealt him the Florida Panthers in a seven-player deal that netted defenseman Ed Jovanoski.

Alexei Yashin (1999): Although his contract had a year remaining at $3.6 million, the Ottawa Senators' winger didn't want to play it out, so he skipped the entire 1999-2000 season thinking he would be free to sign elsewhere. After an arbitrator refused to declare him a free agent and an appeal failed, Yashin reported to the Senators for the next season. "I'm here because I can't play hockey anywhere else in the world," he told reporters.