SBJ/August 19 - 25, 2002/Labor Agents

MLBPA choice may affect others

If the MLB Players Association accepts a payroll tax, it could affect future labor negotiations in other sports leagues, though probably not in a big way, say some prominent sports labor attorneys.

"Could it have some effect in some way? Yes," said Jeffrey Kessler, who has worked as outside counsel to the MLBPA, the NFL Players Association and the National Basketball Players Association. "Is it going to have a major effect? No."

Kessler noted it was difficult to predict the effect, not knowing whether the MLBPA would ultimately agree to a tax, and if so, what kind of tax.

Nevertheless, labor and sports lawyers said a baseball payroll tax — which like a cap is a form of salary restraint — could give some team owners in other sports a rallying cry, particularly since MLBPA is universally regarded as the strongest of the sports unions.

Gary Roberts, sports law professor at Tulane Law School, said the NHL would be the league most likely to be affected by the MLB situation. The NHL's collective-bargaining agreement, which expires in September 2004, does not include a luxury tax or a salary cap.

"It may very well be that if the [baseball] players agree to it, it might put the hockey union in a box because they would be the only major professional men's sports union that did not agree to some kind of salary restraint system," Roberts said.

While the NBA and NFL already have salary caps, NBA union chief Billy Hunter recently expressed concern that the NBA luxury tax, which took effect for the first time this year, has had a chilling affect on the free agent market. "We are not going to sit still for a luxury tax ... in the next deal," Hunter recently told SportsBusiness Journal. He could not be reached for comment on this story.

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Baseball, Labor and Agents, MLB, NBA, NFL

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