This might be applicable to any worldwide major sport, but I'm most familiar with how it pertains to the 4 North American major sports.

What does it mean when a player files their "retirement papers" with their respective league? I know in the NFL or MLB it starts the clock for when you can be considered for the Hall of Fame. But does that process categorize the athlete in other ways? I think I also heard that you have to go through some formal reinstatement process in order to play again (Brett Favre and Michael Jordan are good examples).

Does anyone know the terms of these retirement papers?


2 Answers 2


Retirement papers can serve several purposes. First, if you are currently under contract with a team, filing retirement papers would void your current contract but you also could not sign a contract with another team. Second, If you are not under contract with a team (free agent), filing retirement papers would let teams know that you no longer intend on playing or signing another contract. Thirdly, I think all major leagues have some sort of pension program set up for its retired players and filing those papers makes you eligible to claim your pension. Also like you said in your question it also determines when you are eligible to be on a hall of fame ballot

  • 1
    Thanks. It all makes sense, but do you have any sources to back this up?
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 20:40
  • I have searched up and down google for any sort of documentation on this but have come up empty... What I wrote here comes from my experience as an avid sports fan meeting and talking with different people. I have wondered this myself and this is the list that I came up with. It is very much a legal document that says he is no longer employed by that company. I would compare it to any other job. When you quit you somehow have to let your employer know, same with these guys. Filing papers seems just like they are formally telling everyone that im legaly no longer an employee of this company
    – Maniac
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 13:37
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    Yeah, I also had zero luck with Google on this front. I think your answer is the best I'm going to get. Thanks!
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 13:39
  • Sorry I could not be of more help
    – Maniac
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 21:20

I heard an NFL player who retired after 10 seasons discuss this topic. He said that he and no one else has ever filed retirement papers because they do not exist. The discussion of whether someone has filed his papers makes for great "will he or won't he play" discussions for the media and the fans but that's all

  • 2
    Do you have any source for this info? Who was the player? Who was he talking to?
    – Matt
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 13:57

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