Tuesday's MLB: Players concerned about MLB's deals with gambling companies
Los Angeles — The head of the baseball players' association is worried about the sport's increased commercial deals with sports gambling companies.
A BetMGM Retail Sportsbook opened this year at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and DraftKings is building a sports book scheduled to open next year at the southeast corner of Wrigley Field.
Union executive director Tony Clark was asked before Tuesday's All-Star Game whether he was getting concerned with the gambling relationships, which have increased since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which outlawed sports betting.
“Getting? No. Is? Yeah. Has been? Sure," Clark told the Baseball Writers' Association of America. “We’re entering a very delicate and, dare I say, dangerous world here. We hope that it is truly beneficial for our game moving forward and that everyone who is involved benefits from it in one fashion or another. But when you have players suggest that no sooner was PASPA repealed, that they started to have book houses following them on social media, that gets you a little twitchy pretty quick.
“And so we’ll continue to pound the pavement in each of the state legislatures that are continuing to push, that have language in place and those that don’t yet that are potentially coming online, to ensure that as much as anything, our players are protected, and their families by extension, are protected as a result of the language that’s on the books despite the fact that this train has left the station.”
MLB moving ahead with uniform ads for 2022
Major League Baseball is moving ahead with plans for advertising on uniforms next season.
The new labor contract agreed to in March allows teams to add uniform and helmet advertising patches. The San Diego Padres in April became the first team to announce a deal for 2023, with Motorola.
“I think that jersey patches advertisements on jerseys are a reality of life in professional sports," Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. “That’s a revenue source that is significant enough that it is really impossible for the sport to ignore over the long haul. I think that’s the truth.”
Major League Soccer became the first of the major North American leagues to allow jersey ads in 2007.
Among other North American leagues, the NBA started selling sponsorship logos for the 2017-18 season. The NHL launched helmet ads for the 2020-21 season and began jersey advertising last season.
Manfred defended experiments with new uniform looks, such as having players not wear their regular-season jerseys during the All-Star Game last year.
After a markedly new look in 2021 that included three-letter abbreviations of team names, uniforms for this year's game contain the script from regular season jerseys, with gold lettering on a white background for the National League and a gray background for the American.
Nike took over as MLB's uniform supplier in 2020 and last year added a series of City Connect uniforms that were markedly different, such as having the Boston Red Sox wear yellow and blue.
“A lot of kind unease, trepidation among certainly the more traditional people in the game. City Connect has been one of the great marketing successes in the game in recent years,” Manfred said.
“I think that it’s important to experiment with things like that in order to give the game a little different look. I never thought that a baseball team wearing different jerseys in a game was a particularly appealing look for us. I understand that people can have different views on that topic, but it is part of a larger program designed to market the game in a nontraditional way," he said.
Clark appears likely to stay on as baseball union head
Tony Clark also appears likely to stay on as head of the baseball players’ association.
"There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and I am more than committed to continue to do it,” the former All-Star first baseman told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday.
Now 50, Clark took over as union head in late 2013 following the death of Michael Weiner. Clark led the union during labor negotiations in 2016 and during the deal in March that followed a 99-day lockout. The new agreement expires in December 2026.
Bruce Meyer headed the day-to-day bargaining during the most recent talks and was promoted last week to deputy executive director from senior director of collective bargaining and legal.
The union’s key decisions are made by a 38-man executive committee, which includes an eight-man executive subcommittee. Seven of the eight members of the executive subcommittee made $12 million or more in 2021 and the other made $3.5 million.
While the executive subcommittee voted 8-0 against approving the five-year contract, team player representatives voted 26-4 in favor, leaving the overall ballot at 26-12 for ratification.
Clark said voices are heard from lower-paid members of the union.
“The veteran players were the most vocal players about improving the system for the younger players,” Clark said. “They recognize the changes that were happening in the game and they recognize because they are in the clubhouse with the young players and wanting to let them know that they had their back when sitting down to negotiate.”
The agreement included a $50 million annual bonus pool for players not yet eligible for arbitration.
Clark said players pushed for “the acknowledgment that younger players were delivering more value and needed to realize more of that value.”