Bay Area

Bobby Bonilla Day: Why Steve Young’s USFL contract set precedent

Bay Area
Steve Young

If you're retired baseball player Bobby Bonilla, July 1 is your personal national holiday.

For the rest of us, it’s just Bobby Bonilla Day -- the annual fan celebration that the New York Mets are still (somewhat amazingly) on the hook to pay their one-time star who left the Big Apple before the 2000 MLB season, with the team still owing him millions of dollars.

Here’s an inside look at the most famous deferred contract sports and how it has influenced Bay Area athletes over the years. 

Is Bobby Bonilla still getting paid?

Bonilla, a six-time All-Star who played in the majors from 1986 to 2001, still collects roughly $1.19 million every July 1. Few people in the United States look forward to the calendar flipping from June to July more than the former Met third baseman. 

When does the Bobby Bonilla contract end?

Bonilla’s contract will continue paying him until 2035. Pretty nice, right?

Why is Bobby Bonilla still getting paid?

Instead of paying Bonilla $5.9 million in 2000, the Mets opted for a deferred salary arrangement that set the team up to make annual payments of nearly $1.2 million for 25 years starting July 1, 2011. The deal included a negotiated 8% interest.


Has a Bay Area sports team ever agreed to pay a Bobby Bonilla contract?

Fortunately, the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers have stayed out of the headlines when it comes to the strangest deferred-money contracts in sports. However, one of the most iconic Bay Area sports legends of all time arguably set the precedent for Bobby Bonilla’s deferred salary arrangement with the Mets.

Steve Young was one of college football’s biggest stars when he signed a contract with the USFL’s Los Angeles Express in 1984. The deal would have paid the former BYU quarterback $40 million over 43 years. Broken down, the contract had a $6.2-million signing bonus, with actual salary (around $32 million) being paid through an annuity from 1990-2027. The owner of the Express went broke shortly after the ink on the contract was dried -- sending Young to seek a settlement for a $1.4-million annuity before the team’s bankruptcy proceedings.