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Eli snubs San Diego, Wilkins not Jazzed about Utah - When sports stars refuse to play for their teams

Fri 24 April 2020 | 8:48

On the anniversary of the infamous 2004 NFL Draft, we look at the sports stars who refused to play for their teams.

It is one of the most awkward NFL Draft images of all time.

Eli Manning, stood next to then NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, holding up a San Diego Chargers jersey he never had any intention of wearing.

Manning, the top pick of the 2004 draft, made clear his desire not to play for San Diego, and his refusal to do so led to him being swiftly traded to the New York Giants for fellow quarterback Philip Rivers.

Friday marks 16 years to the day of that tumultuous first round, which will forever live in NFL infamy.

But Manning is far from the only sports star to refuse to play for his team.

Here we look at five others to have taken that stance.

Geoffrey Boycott 1974-77

One of English cricket's greatest batsmen, Boycott went into self-enforced exile from the international game for reasons that remain unclear.

Boycott has since stated a loss of appetite for Test cricket was behind that decision, but others point to Mike Denness and Tony Greig's appointments to the England captaincy.

The observation has been made that Boycott left the England set-up during the peak of the careers of several legendary fast bowlers including Dennis Lillee and Michael Holding.

Boycott has taken a dim view of such comments and he made his return in 1977 against Australia and in a display of the obduracy that defined his career, batted on each of the five days at Trent Bridge, a feat only three other England players have subsequently emulated.

Dominique Wilkins 1982

Having starred at the University of Georgia, Wilkins was unhappy at being selected third overall in the NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz.

Unwilling to play for the Jazz, who at the time were blighted by cash-flow problems, Wilkins was subsequently traded to the Atlanta Hawks months later.

In exchange for Wilkins, the Jazz received John Drew, Freeman Williams, and $1million, but the deal was one they would live to regret.

Wilkins went on to become a nine-time All-Star, while Drew and Williams played only a combined four seasons for Utah.

John Elway 1983

A sought-after prospect in both American football and baseball, Elway leveraged his appeal to the latter to get out of playing for the NFL's then Baltimore Colts.

Elway was said to be reluctant to play for the Colts and his father cautioned him against working under head coach Frank Kush.

He took the advice of his dad and, when the Colts selected him first overall, reacted by saying: "As I stand here right now, I'm playing baseball."

That was a legitimate option for Elway, who had been drafted in the second round of the 1981 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees.

A Major League Baseball career never came to pass, though, as the Colts agreed to trade Elway to the Denver Broncos for offensive lineman Chris Hinton, backup quarterback Mark Herrmann and a first-round pick in 1984.

Elway would go on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and won two Super Bowls with the Broncos. His concerns about the Colts proved justified, as they moved to Indianapolis in 1984 and continued to struggle until the 1990s.

Bo Jackson 1986

One man who did play in both MLB and the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers missed out on one of the most dynamic athletes in American sports history despite selecting Jackson first overall.

Jackson refused to play for the Buccaneers as a visit to their facilities proved to be against NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) rules when Tampa Bay had insisted it was permitted.

As a result, Jackson missed the rest of his final college baseball season and elected to re-enter the draft the following year while spending 1986 playing for MLB's Kansas City Royals.

He was selected in the seventh round of the 1987 draft by the Oakland Raiders, whose owner Al Davis permitted him to play both sports.

The 1989 All-Star Game MVP, Jackson's achievements in baseball surpassed what he did on the football field, with a hip injury meaning he played only four seasons in the NFL.

Still, for the Bucs it was a case of what might have been.

Pierre van Hooijdonk 1998

Having returned from the World Cup to find promises of squad strengthening had not been met, Nottingham Forest striker Pierre van Hooijdonk asked for a transfer.

That request was rejected, leading Van Hooijdonk, furious at the sale of strike partner Kevin Campbell and adamant he had previously been told he could leave if he wished, went on strike, keeping fit by training with former club NAC Breda.

Forest refused to entertain offers for Van Hooijdonk, leading to an impasse that lasted until November, when he finally returned.

He scored six goals but was unable to keep Forest in the Premier League, as they finished bottom and made an immediate return to the second tier.

Their relegation led to Van Hooijdonk getting his wish in the form of a move to Vitesse, and spells with Benfica, Feyenoord and Fenerbahce followed.


source: SportMob