SBD/Issue 128/Leagues & Governing Bodies

MLBPA Files Grievance Over Charity Clauses In Player Contracts

Ramirez' Contract Includes $500,000 Annual
Donation To Dodgers Dream Foundation
The MLBPA Friday filed a grievance against 22 clubs "challenging whether charitable donations can be required as part of a contract," according to Shaikin & Hernandez of the L.A. TIMES. MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations Rob Manfred said that the MLBPA claims that "at least 109 players should not have to make a combined $6[M] in charitable donations this season." Dodgers LF Manny Ramirez as part of his new two-year, $45M contract agreed to "donate $500,000 per year" to the Dodgers Dream Foundation, and Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt said that he "would implement the 'Ramirez Provision,' asking players to make a donation, at an amount of their choosing, as part of all future contracts." Manfred said that the Dodgers "did not clear the 'Ramirez Provision' with the league office," but noted that the clause complied with the CBA. Manfred added that if a player "did not wish to donate ... the Dodgers could decide whether to proceed with the contract or release the player." McCourt: "I find it odd, in these challenging times, that we encounter a complaint against the idea of players giving back to the communities that support them" (L.A. TIMES, 3/22). McCourt added, "Every future Dodger will be asked to fill in a blank line. They're making a lot of money, these players. We won't tell them how much to contribute, that wouldn't be right" (MLB.com, 3/21).

INSIDE THE GRIEVANCE: ESPN.com reported the MLBPA in the grievance is "seeking repayment by the clubs to the players for the amount they agreed to donate to charity." MLBPA General Counsel Michael Weiner: "Players are free to choose to make donations to club charities, but clubs can't require such donations by contract. Provisions that require players to make contributions to clubs' charities are unenforceable under the basic agreement." MLBPA COO Gene Orza said that the union in the grievance "argues that the agreements are unenforceable and of no benefit to the player." But Manfred said, "The charitable contributions were freely negotiated between the clubs and players. We are surprised that they would attack such freely negotiated clauses. And we are shocked by the union's assertion that charitable activities do not provide a benefit to the players" (ESPN.com, 3/22). More Manfred: "These clauses are individually negotiated, and player contracts have all sorts of special covenants like this that are the result of negotiations. It still takes two to tango. And the player is still getting additional benefit." Unless settled, the matter will go before Arbitrator Shyam Das. There is no immediate timetable yet for that to occur (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

Ryan Braun's Contract Among
Those Alleged To Violate CBA
PLAYERS NOT INFORMED: YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown reported Brewers LF Ryan Braun, Mets 3B David Wright, Cubs P Ted Lilly and Astros P Roy Oswalt are "among the players whose contracts the union believes violate" the CBA. None of the players said that "he wished to be reimbursed," nor were any of them "particularly familiar with the grievance." Braun: "I would have at least liked to have known about it. I don't want people to think I'm anti-charity. To file a grievance without getting everybody's permission is probably not the right thing" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/22). In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez notes the Florida Marlins Community Foundation "could be out no less than $550,000 over the next six years." Marlins SS Hanley Ramirez is the only player currently on the roster with a donation stipulation in his contract, but "how the grievance might impact the Marlins' ability to collect from Ramirez is uncertain" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/23). In Denver, Troy Renck reported five Rockies contracts "negotiated since 2006 include these clauses" (DENVER POST, 3/22).

LABOR RELATIONS STRAINING: SI.com's Tom Verducci writes the grievance, filed on the eve of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) semifinals, "has intensified erosions in the partnership" between MLB and the MLBPA, as the "winds of a 2012 labor war begin to blow." In "more cooperative times," the union "might have negotiated with MLB officials on trying to downgrade such clauses to voluntary, separate side agreements." But the MLBPA instead "took the aggressive position of filling the grievance during the championship round of the WBC." Manfred: "Why are you picking the finals round of the WBC to drop the bomb?" (SI.com, 3/23). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff wrote, "What is this really about? It appears to be a classic 'following the letter of the law' argument." The "crux of the argument can be found in an e-mail the union sent to its members." The e-mail reads in part, "While a player may voluntarily contribute to a Club's charity, the [CBA] does not permit a provision in a player's UPC that requires the player to make such contributions. In our view, no player can be disciplined for declining to contribute to a Club's charity even if the player's UPC calls for such contribution" (NEWSDAY, 3/22).

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