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The MLBPA, Frank McCourt and Charitable Clauses PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 22 March 2009 13:04

Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt's attempt to add a provision into
each Dodger contract where a blank line is
available to enter a dollar amount in which a
player donates to his personal charity has
caused the MLBPA to file a grievance.

<sigh>… Frank McCourt. You had to mess with a good thing.

For those that have not heard, on Friday, McCourt, the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, decided that it wasn’t good enough to ask players to donate to his personal charitable cause, the Dodgers Dream Foundation, but rather, was attempting to insert it into every contract after adding in a provision within the recently agreed upon Manny Ramirez contract. That provision had Ramirez donating $1 million to the Dream Foundation

“Every future Dodger will be asked to fill in a blank line,” Frank McCourt said. “They’re making a lot of money, these players. We won’t tell them how much to contribute, that wouldn’t be right.”

As I wrote in an editorial on Friday (see Dodgers’ "Ramirez Provision" Pushes the Envelope for Player Contracts), “Well, let’s see what happens when a player enters $1.00 on the line.”

Now, it may never get that far.

The MLB Players Association has filed a grievance on behalf of players regarding clauses in their contracts in which they agree to donate to a charitable cause. This according to MLBPA COO Gene Orza.

If not settled between the MLBPA and management, the issue will be decided by arbitrator Shyam Das. As reported by ESPN:

"Players are free to choose to make donations to club charities, but clubs can't require such donations by contract," union general counsel Michael Weiner said Saturday. "Provisions that require players to make contributions to clubs' charities are unenforceable under the basic agreement. It's not a subject that the Basic Agreement permits individual bargaining on."

Well, it’s not as if we didn’t see this coming. McCourt, in a case of being brash (the comment about players making a lot of money), and overextending common sense (attempting to insert charitable donations to the Dream Foundation into every future Dodger contract), killed off a great thing. Way to go, Frank.

According to the ESPN report, “MLB has come up with at least 109 players with these provisions thus far, but there could be more, as the league reads through all of the contracts. At least 22 teams are affected, and several marquee players, including Ramirez, are involved.”

In other words, a whole lot of charities gained millions through these donations, many that were most likely done willingly by the players. Now, McCourt’s arrogance has created another rift between the MLBPA and management.

After being informed of the PA’s grievance, McCourt still doesn’t seem to get the picture.

"I have not seen the grievance, but I find it odd that in these challenging times, that we encounter a complaint against the idea of players giving back to the communities that support them," he said in a statement. "We believe there are qualities that represent the Dodger way. The player's contributions to the team, appreciation of the fans, and impact on such a supportive community all combine to help our organization live up to our core values. We seek players who embrace these values. The Ramirez provision is a blank line to be filled in with whatever number a player chooses.”

For the moment, let’s look deeper into McCourt’s comments.

Frank, why does it have to be in the contract? Frank, why not just ask? Frank, what if a player wants to donate to a cause other than the Dream Foundation? Frank, doesn’t the contract provision place undue pressure to donate by its very design?

In case McCourt didn’t know (I doubt he’s blind on this subject, however), the players, through the MLBPA conduct many charitable works each and every year. Here’s just one I am grabbing arbitrariably from the long list of press releases I have in my in-box, this one from Oct of last year:

The World Series may mean another thrilling baseball season is coming to an end,  but for Action Teams of high school students and Major Leaguers on a mission to impact the lives of those in need it also means the beginning of another exciting season of volunteering.

Since 2002, the Action Team program – created and administered by Volunteers of America and the Major League Baseball Players Trust – has been inspiring and training the next generation of volunteers in cities throughout the United States. Working together, Major Leaguers and high school student leaders recruit, train and organize other students to support causes important in their communities. The players and students deliver a simple message to young people everywhere: You don’t need to be a celebrity to be a hero to someone else.

Two Action Team Major Leaguers recently took time out of their World Series preparation to talk about the program.

“It’s been an honor to work with high school Action Team Captains throughout the Delaware Valley,” said Philadelphia Action Team member and Phillies center fielder, Shane Victorino. “These students are taking a leadership role in encouraging their peers to get involved supporting causes important to their communities, and the results have been astounding.” 

Added Tampa Bay Rays first baseman, Carlos Pena, “Volunteering in places where we work and live is important. By joining forces with Volunteers of America and high school students, the Action Team program has helped increase community service by spreading this message to countless teens throughout the nation. ”

Action Teams of student volunteers and Major Leaguers in Chicago (Cubs), Cleveland and Tampa represent the newest cities to join the action during the 2008-09 school-year, bringing the total number of Action Team locations to 19 – Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Mobile, Ala., New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland, Maine, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, DC. 

The Action Team program also includes a school-based service-learning curriculum developed by the Players Trust in partnership with The Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition that carries the message of volunteerism and teaches valuable leadership and community service skills to 700,000 high school students in more than 5,000 classrooms across the United States.

The Players Trust and Volunteers of America are currently developing an Internet version of the Action Team program, scheduled to launch in September 2009, which will make it possible for every high school in America to join this important and exciting program.

Major League baseball players participating in the program include Alex Cora, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek of the Boston Red Sox; Ryan Dempster, Derrek Lee and Ryan Theriot of the Chicago Cubs; Josh Fogg,  Javier Valentin and David Weathers of the Cincinnati Reds; Josh Barfield, Jamey Carroll, Ben Francisco and Ryan Garko of the Cleveland Indians; Brian Fuentes, Ryan Spilborghs and Cory Sullivan of the Colorado Rockies; Curtis Granderson and Nate Robertson of the Detroit Tigers; Hunter Pence and Chris Sampson of the Houston Astros; Eddie Guardado, Joe Mauer and Nick Punto of the Minnesota Twins; Carlos Delgado and Brian Schneider of the New York Mets; Andrew Brown, Eric Chavez and Huston Street of the Oakland A’s; Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and J.C. Romero of the Philadelphia Phillies; Jake Peavy of the San Diego Padres (Mobile Action Team); Noah Lowry, Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn of the San Francisco Giants; Miguel Batista and Brandon Morrow of the Seattle Mariners; Cliff Floyd and Carlos Pena of the Tampa Bay Rays; Jason Jennings and Michael Young of the Texas Rangers; and Chad Cordero of the Washington Nationals.

To date, Action Teams of high school students and Major Leaguers across the country have inspired more than 14,000 high school students to help more than 60,000 people in need by volunteering in their communities.

The Action Team is the signature program of a partnership between Volunteers of America and the Players Trust, which also includes an annual grant program that provides funding to local Volunteers of America offices to help strengthen communities and build better lives for those in need. Ten grants totaling $100,000 were presented in 2008, and $430,000 has been provided by the Players Trust to dozens of programs since the first grants were given in 2003. The Players Trust also provided Volunteers of America with $1 million to establish the Rental Housing Development Fund, which will be used to develop affordable rental housing in the GulfCoast region following Hurricane Katrina.

So, Frank. In these trying times, the players are doing charitable works. But, you should have known that and should have adjusted your comments accordingly.

It’s worth repeating, but as I said Friday, a gift given willingly is the best gift of all. I hope that millions pour into the Dream Foundation, but let’s hope and pray it’s done because players want to, not because they are forced to.

Frank, thanks for blowing it.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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