Can an NFL team tell a player not to play basketball?

The Chiefs have lowered the boom on Patrick Mahomes’ basketball jones. Do they, or any team, have the right to do it?

Haha yeah that’s gonna work,” 49ers cornerback and NFLPA executive committee member Richard Sherman said on Twitter. “If they don’t want him hooping then put it in the contract. It’s not there so he can do as he pleases. Most players do.”

Paragraph 3 of the Standard Player Contract contains broad language regarding activities beyond the football field: “Without prior written consent of the Club, Player will not play football or engage in activities related to football otherwise than for Club or engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury. Player represents that he has special, exceptional and unique knowledge, skill, ability, and experience as a football player, the loss of which cannot be estimated with any certainty and cannot be fairly or adequately compensated by damages. Player therefore agrees that Club will have the right, in addition to any other right which Club may possess, to enjoin Player by appropriate proceedings from playing football or engaging in football-related activities other than for Club or from engaging in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.” (Emphasis added.)

The question becomes whether basketball constitutes an activity that “may involve a significant risk of personal injury.” In other words, is the risk of personal injury “significant”? For minor injuries — cuts, scrapes, contusions, bruises, etc. — the risk is high. Major injuries happen less frequently, but they definitely can and do occur.

As Sherman notes, most NFL players play basketball in the offseason. It’s a great way to get exercise, and it’s far safer than playing football. Besides, all forms of exercise entail risk; if the alternative consists of players sitting around doing nothing, teams should embrace the fact that players are trying to stay in shape on their own time.

If/when a serious happens away from the team’s facility, the team can place the player on the non-football injury list and, if it so chooses, not pay him. Again, the overriding question is whether the team wants its players staying in shape or playing Fortnite for the seven or eight fortnights between the end of the season and the launch of the formal offseason program, when any injury occurring within the confines of the team’s headquarters would not jeopardize a player’s right to compensation.

The Chiefs apparently plan to take a much safer approach with Mahomes. If Mahomes is willing to go along with it, so be it. But if Patrick Mahomes shows up for the start of the offseason program looking more like Patrick Mahouse because he hasn’t been exercising, the Chiefs shouldn’t complain.