SBD/August 25, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Little League CEO Considers Player Compensation, But Likely Not In The Near Future

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Keener's compensation over the past decade nearly has doubled from '05
Little League Baseball CEO Steve Keener suggested that the organization in the future could possibly give back some of the $76M "in television rights fees the organization is reaping over the next eight years to the kids whose names, images and likenesses fill up flat screens every summer," according to Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. Kenner: "I've always felt we need to be as progressive an organization as we can. We don't know what's coming. If at some point in time that would be deemed to be appropriate, we'll consider it. At the moment, I don't see the necessity and don't think we should be compensating kids right now. Whether at some point down the road any funds could be put aside to help them with college I don't know. Down the road that's something we might take a look at even if it's feasible." Passan noted Little League has "grown into a business" with more than $80M in assets and nearly $25M in revenue, and "every August it runs out a fresh batch of kids in hopes of captivating the country." Tax records show that Keener "made $430,844 in salary and benefits" between October '12-September '13. His compensation package over the past decade "nearly has doubled from the $228,869 he made" in '05. Little League's '12 tax filings show that Keener was "one of seven employees with six-figure compensation packages." It is "technically a charity, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, though perhaps more accurately it is a business wearing charity clothes." Tax filings show that Little League "paid a Connecticut company called SJX Partners $472,062 last year for a ''corporate sponsor search.'" Passan: "Charities don't spend nearly half a million dollars so a company can find which multinational is willing to pay the most to be the exclusive whatever-it-may-be of the Little League World Series. Businesses do" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/23).

PAY IT FORWARD: In Miami, David Neal writes the LLWS and its organizers "make enough to provide a more direct reward to the young entertainers." Only in sports "do we maintain this concept that at a certain age, the athlete should perform for free while somebody else collects all the beaucoup bucks people pay to watch/show them." Neal: "How about $1,000 gift cards to Staples or Office Depot or Target for every player in the series?" Winning the tournament "should yield bigger gift cards or maybe special memorabilia -- how about each player receiving a glove and ball signed by a Major League Baseball All-Stars at his/her position?" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/25).

SIGN OF A CHANGING TIME? The Little League team from Chicago lost the championship game 8-4 to South Korea yesterday, but the presence of the all African-American team on such a stage caused ESPN's John Saunders to wonder whether "the game is changing" in regards to its current demographics. ESPN's Jemele Hill noted baseball has had a "very difficult time attracting young African-Americans to the sport," yet in one tournament, there was not only an "all-black team from Chicago from the inner-city," but also the presence of female P Mo'ne Davis. Hill: "From a demographic standpoint for baseball, this could not be a bigger win or success.” ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski said it was not a coincidence that MLB Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred "was there to throw out the first pitch during those World Series games," as he knows the league has to "figure out a way to speed up the games, to get young players involved (and) inner-city kids involved.” The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan said, "We do need to reconnect that community with the game” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 8/24).
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