On June 6, 1969, Joe Namath held a tearful press conference in which he announced his retirement from the National Football League. Just six months after winning Super Bowl III and being named the game's Most Valuable Player, Namath was out of the business. One month later, his retirement ended and Namath reported back to the New York Jets.
Why? Because of a dispute over the bar Namath held an ownership interest in, Bachelors III.
Bachelors III was a bar/night club located at 798 Lexington Avenue in New York City. Namath was a part owner, along with Bobby Van, a singer, and Ray Abbruzzese, a teammate of Namath. Together, they made the three bachelors. The bar opened in the spring of 1969 and was extraordinarily popular. It was one of the first real dating bars for single people in the United States. Other locations were planned, such as Boston, Miami, and New Orleans.
That Namath was a part owner in the bar was not an issue; the types of people hanging out at the bar were. People had observed mobsters and members of the mafia in the bar and knew they were using it as a hangout. Pete Rozelle, then Commissioner of the NFL, issued Namath an ultimatum; relinquish his interest in the bar, or face suspension. Rozelle warned Namath of a clause in his contract which allowed for suspension if he "enter[ed] drinking or gambling establishments" or "associate with notorious persons."
Namath, only twenty-six years old at the time, was outraged that Rozelle was trying to interfere with his personal life. On June 6, 1969, he held a press conference where he declared, "I'm not selling; I quit!" When training camp opened soon after, Namath was nowhere to be found. He soon realized, however, that he had acted too rashly and was throwing away a career that made him famous. Namath started to realize that if he was to ever play football again, he would have to divest himself of Bachelors III.
As a result of meeting with Rozelle a few times, on July 15, the two came to an agreement, almost entirely on Rozelle's terms. Despite publicly asserting he had done nothing wrong, Namath sold his interest in the bar, and was permitted to join the team at training camp. After a month long saga, Namath's retirement was over.