One of the earliest Professional Sports contract controversies involved Major League Baseball Player Free Agency that arose as the result of an unprecedented, landmark contract between Alvin “Junior” Moore and the Atlanta Braves in which a Special Covenant gave Moore the right to demand a trade which could not be consummated without his prior consent if he was dissatisfied with his playing time. In the event that a trade could not be consummated by the end of the 1977 championship season, Moore would become a free agent if he so desired.
Alvin “Junior” Moore was only a rookie, yet here are the terms of the contract his agent Abdul-Jalil put together for him:
-The Braves were to pay Moore $75,000 that season. That was only his salary.
-They also were to pay him a $50,000 bonus and provide him with an additional $50,000 interest-free loan.
That’s was historic for a rookie, but wait, there’s more coming.
The imaginative, foresighted agent Abdul-Jalil saw to it that four other unique clauses were written into the Atlanta Braves contract of Moore.
“If Moore is dissatisfied with his playing time, he can submit a letter to the Braves notifying them of same, who then must initiate a trade to the team of Moore’s choice, which can only be consummated with his consent. If there is no trade by the end of the season, the contract is voided and he becomes a free agent.”
1) The first unique clause gave Moore the option of demanding a trade to another team of his choice upon his notice to the team of his dissatisfaction with his playing time; becoming a free agent simply by notifying the Braves of his intention, which works out to be the same as anytime he choses. Under the present Basic Agreement between the players and the owners, a player becomes a free agent ONLY after six-year service requirement with a team has been fulfilled AND only after the second year he plays for a team without signing a contract the previous year.
2) The second unique clause allowed Moore to veto any trade the Braves might involve him in if he did not approve of the team in the proposed trade;
3) The third unique clause gave him the option of choosing the team he wished to be traded to;
4) The forth unique clause gave Moore the option of becoming a free agent if a trade to a team of his choice in not consummated. Under the then present Basic Agreement between the players and the owners, a player becomes a free agent the second year only after he plays for a team without signing a contract the previous year.
What club owner in the world would ever sign a rookie to a contract like that?
The contract was signed by Ted Turner, the Braves’ owner, March 14, 1977.
When National League President Chub Feeney first saw Moore’s contract and its special freedom clause, he rejected it disapproving this Special Covenant and on April 28, Feeney, wrote a letter to Bill Lucas, the Braves’ Director of Player Personnel.
The letter said:
“Specific covenants contained in Alvin Moore’s contract are disapproved because it (the contract) contains provisions inconsistent with the reserve system article of the new Basic Agreement.
Please be sure the player receives a copy of this letter.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) filed a Federal grievance on the ground that actual or potential additional benefits were provided for the player within the meaning of the collective agreement. The clubs maintained that the free agency provisions in the 1976 agreement were exclusive, providing the only basis upon which free agency rights could be exercised.
But the union argued that there were still other avenues to free agency, such as an unconditional release by a club because the player was not sufficiently qualified. The arbitrator held, in this case, that “the six-year service requirement through which a player could exercise free agency was for the individual club’s benefit in the sense that it would want to retain the player for a particular period of time.” Thus, the benefit of “long-term title and reservation rights” could be waived by the club. On the other hand, the reentry mechanism through which other clubs would have an opportunity to negotiate with a player who becomes a free agent was a matter covered by all the collective bargaining agreement, so an attempt by club and player to evade such procedures would be “inconsistent” and thus prohibited. Said the Arbitrator:
There is clear merit in the Association’s argument that the words “additional benefits to the Player” should be liberally construed to support a wide variety of benefits to a Player over and above the benefits accorded to him by the Basic Agreement. Though covenants containing such benefits may be “inconsistent” with a particular provision of the Agreement dealing with the same subject matter, there is logic in the Association’s argument that they are not, in fact, “inconsistent” because Article II authorizes such inconsistencies where they provide additional benefits to the Player.”?
Marvin Miller, the MLBPA Executive Director said “Junior Moore’s contract has done more for baseball as anything in the basic agreement just signed by the Players Association and the owners”.
Moore went on to sign a very lucrative, multi year contract with the Chicago White Sox.
CASES PUBLISHED IN UNIVERSITIES LAW REVIEWS, ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORTS COURSE OUTLINES AND PUBLICATIONS
Case Western Reserve Law Review Volume 31 Summer 1981 Number 4
A Long Deep Drive to Collective Bargaining: Of Players, Owners, Brawls, and Strikes.
Professor Robert C. Berry, Professor William B. Gould
Student Journals at Case Western Reserve University School of Law Scholarly Commons
A Long Deep Drive to Collective Bargaining: Of Players, Owners, Brawls, and Strikes.
c. Individual v. Collective Interests. The case law of labor arbitration addresses a number of important issues as it explores the inner workings of a league. Cases which confront the tensions between the individual and the collective interest of the players are of particular importance to this analysis. Individuals may not always be served best by collective action. The individual may be able to obtain advantages for himself that run counter to agreements forged between the union and management. These individual advantages often must be curtailed, as the earlier discussions on the unit504 and exclusivity505 have revealed. An examination of some of these problems in the baseball context sharpens the focus. The Moore506 decision arose out of a special covenant between Alvin Moore and the Atlanta Braves. The National League President disapproved of this arrangement on the ground that the covenant was “inconsistent” with the basic agreement.507 The covenant stated that Moore could not be traded without his consent and could become a free agent at the end of the 1977 championship season “if he so desires.” 508 The players association challenged the disapproval of the contract in a grievance. The players association argued that the individual contract could not be regarded as “inconsistent” with the collective agreement since it accorded benefits not available under the basic agreement. The clubs contended that the covenant struck “at the very heart” of the negotiated reserve system. The argument was that the Braves, by providing free agency for Moore without reference to the contractual scheme contained in the collective agreement, ignored the other clubs’ interest in maintaining a competitive balance-the very objective of the negotiated reserve system.509 At the time the grievance was filed, Moore did not have six years service in the major leagues-a prerequisite to free agency under the labor contract between the parties. The covenant, moreover, made no reference to the quota and compensation provisions of the basic agreement. In response, the association noted that the agreement contemplated free agency through methods other than the reentry draft. By way of rejoinder, the clubs maintained that these other avenues were designed for players whose careers were ending, younger players, players of marginal skills or a default by the club.510 With regard to the former category, the clubs contended that “[lt was never contemplated that promises of outright release or termination would or could be used by individual Clubs and Players as a negotiating device or bargaining chip in order to evade the reentry procedure and other aspects of the reserve system.” 511 The arbitration panel held there was no reason that Moore could not negotiate conditional rights either to be traded or to become a free agent. The opinion stated: There is clear merit in the Association’s argument that the words ‘additional benefits to the Player’ should be liberally construed to support a wide variety of benefits to a player over and above the benefits accorded to him by the Basic Agreement. Though covenants containing such benefits may be “inconsistent” with a particular provision of the Agreement dealing with the same subject matter, there is logic in the Association’s argument that they are not, in fact, ‘inconsistent’ because Article II authorizes such inconsistencies where they provide additional benefits to the Player. The evidence… suggests the League Presidents have approved a number of special covenants in this light, where the ‘additional benefits to the Player’ were within the Club’s power to bestow. 512 Inasmuch as the Braves were not terminating Moore for lack of playing skill, the arbitrator decided that Moore could not escape the reentry draft provided for in the collective bargaining agreement. The procedure and “its related quota provisions protect the interests of all 26 Clubs and cannot be waived by the Atlanta Club in the circumstances of this case. 513 The fact is, however, that the modification of the length of service provisions negotiated between Atlanta and Moore, and circumvention of the reentry draft procedures, may affect the competitive balance in the league so as to promote the interests of some other clubs. If, for example, certain superstars became available earlier than provided for in the collective agreement, the resulting bidding wars would benefit wealthier teams such as the Yankees, Angels, and Braves. If, in contrast, the number of talented free agents available depressed the market, the impact could be immediate and substantial. In some instances, the players rather than the owners would be adversely affected. It is thus difficult to establish a clearly logical demarcation between length of service and other aspects of the reentry draft since one element protects the clubs in the league and the other does not. The Moore decision is probably the correct one. The additional benefits secured by individual players must be reconciled with the overriding procedures established by the collective agreement’s reentry draft. The second important case involved Mike Marshall, the 1974 Cy Young Award winner and erstwhile relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, among others.514 Marshall negotiated a special covenant with the Twins which permitted him to become a free agent after the 1978 season but “without regard to the compensation provisions therein.”515 The arbitrator, following Moore, concluded that the compensation provisions were designed for the benefit of all clubs and not merely the individual club which lost the player to free agency. While the arbitrator conceded that the club losing the player might waive its right to compensation, it would not waive the “detriment” or “cost” that the signing club would incur in the normal reentry draft procedure. 516 The recent Dave Winfield free agency episode created another problem. The Yankees, fearful that they would not be one of the thirteen teams able to draft Winfield, reportedly negotiated with the Padres to provide for an agreement between the Yankees and Winfield and a trade between the Padres and the Yankees based on that deal.517 This alleged agreement circumvented the reentry draft procedure and compensation and, in theory, imposed a cost on the signing club. The players association, however, accepted this procedure as compatible with the agreement because Winfield was able to use the prospect of free agency, limited only by the amateur draft compensation, as a vehicle to bargain for acceptable contract terms. The final group of baseball-related cases involve option clauses and right of refusal clauses in special covenants. In 1976, Carlton Fisk, Rick Burleson, and Gary Maddox negotiated provisions giving their respective clubs the right of first refusal at the end of their contracts. Their theory was that a player could reap the financial benefits of a bidding war while remaining with the club in cities like Boston and New York where there are many fringe benefits to being a famous ballplayer. The association objected to these covenants on the theory that they inevitably depress the bidding between clubs. An arbitrator took the position that a right of first refusal “could not possibly produce anything better than free agency.”‘ 518 This position seems flawed given the advantages that players might reap from such a provision. To take an extreme example, players cannot waive their right to be part of the free agent draft after six years, although they may do so indirectly by entering into a long-term contract. The grievance thus was settled in favor of the association 519 — a further step toward collectivizing the relationship. Another important variation on this theme of individual-collective tension involves negotiated option clauses. The Carlton Fisk award 520 decided that substantial performance by the Red Sox was not adequate to meet the option tender date of December 20 established under the collective agreement. 521 The arbitrator rejected the club’s reliance on extreme forfeiture as an excuse of the condition since the Red Sox already had received Fisk’s performance for salary paid between 1976 and 1980. This rationale is questionable in light of Fisk’s inability to play during most of 1979-although Fisk played in 1980 under adverse circumstances. The arbitrator’s comment that free agency status for Fisk was an “unfortunate consequence for the Club in comparison to the minor inconvenience to him flowing from the related contract tender”522 understates the matter. Another option clause case, the Tidrow arbitration,523 was of more precedental value. Tidrow, prior to joining the Chicago Cubs, signed a contract with the Yankees for 1977 to 1979 and then in 1978 negotiated an extension for 1980. The contract provided for compensation, some of it deferred, and stated that the club reserved the right to exercise an option on Tidrow’s services at a salary of $200,000 for 1981 by notifying Tidrow before December 20, 1980.524 The renewal option was exercised by a letter dated August 28, 1980. The players association objected to the renewal which purportedly blocked Tidrow’s access to the reentry draft on the ground that the special covenant containing the option did not constitute an actual or potential benefit to the player.525 The club contended that Tidrow had executed a contract for the succeeding season which was a contractual limitation on free agency rights. The arbitrator, however, held that the individual contract’s special covenants referred to the 1980 season.526 Tidrow thus could not be deemed to have executed a contract for 1981. The arbitrator also concluded that the agreement extracted from Tidrow all irrevocable offers to enter into a future contract. Moreover, since the players association successfully resisted incorporation of an option year in the collective agreement as a prerequisite to free agency–except for players like Fisk who had contracted prior to August 9, 1976 527 .-the arbitrator found the bargaining history to be “strong evidence” of an intent not to eliminate free agency through an option clause.528 Since Moore held that a contract could be inconsistent and yet acceptable if it provided an actual or potential benefit, further arbitral inquiry was requested. The arbitrator discussed the contention that Tidrow had benefitted through the economic “package” that he received with a guaranteed contract rather than the standard contract. Any detriment, reasoned the arbitrator, could be offset by a potential benefit. The option clause, however, must provide its own benefit. Tidrow, experienced in negotiations and aware of free agency’s benefits, could have perceived an option clause as being more advantageous. In making his determination, the arbitrator found the following to be conclusive: “By remaining silent until the latter part of 1979 and retaining $100,000 in bonuses for signing the contract he now seeks to overturn, Tidrow led the Cubs-who acquired his contract in apparent good faith-to act in reliance on his evident acceptance of all of its terms.”529 Tidrow accordingly was estopped because of his tardy disavowal, his actual or constructive knowledge that he was losing free agency, and detrimental reliance by the Cubs. While the arbitrator stated that clubs might attempt to circumvent the collective agreement through such covenants as making optional renewal clauses a condition precedent to all contracts, such was not the case in Tidrow. Tidrow is thus a “narrow holding” which again emphasizes the tension between collective and individual interests.
504. See notes 462-70 supra and accompanying text.
505. See notes 471-503 supra and accompanying text.
506. Major Leagues of Professional Baseball Clubs v. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n (Moore), No. 77-18 (Sept. 7, 1977) (on file at Case Western Reserve Law Review).
507. Id at 2.
509. Id at 8.
510. Id at 11-12.
511. Id at 12.
512. Id at 14-15.
513. Id at 17. CASE WESTERN RESERVE LAW REVIEW
514. Major Leagues of Professional Baseball Clubs v. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n (Marshall v. Minnesota Twins), No. 78-15 (Oct. 25, 1978) (unpublished) (on file at Case Western Reserve Law Review).
515. Id at 2.
516. Id at 13-14.
517. See Yanks Seek to Land Winfeld Before He is a FreeAgent, N.Y. Times, Oct 22, 1980, § 2, at 5, col. 1; Winfield Opts for Free Agency, Stalling Deal to Become Yankee, N.Y. Times, Oct. 23, 1981, § 4, at 19, col. 4. [Vol 31:685 COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
518. Decision of the Arbitration Panel, Major League Baseball Players Ass’n v. Chicago Cubs (Tidrow), No. 80-18 (Nov. 4, 1980) (on file at Case Western Reserve Law Review) [hereinafter cited as Tidrow].
519. “The league presidents who originally approved the contracts [Lynn, Burleson, Fisk, and Maddox] since have strickened those clauses.” Chass, Miller Sees4 Ripoffin Agents’Acts, N.Y. Times, Jan. 27, 1977, § C, at 25, coL 1.
520. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n (Fisk), No. 80-35, (Feb. 12, 1981) (unpublished) [hereinafter cited as Fisk].
521. See note 378 supra. 19811 CASE WESTERN RESERVE LAW REVIEW
522. Fisk, supra note 520, at 20.
523. See Tidrow, supra note 518 and accompanying text.
524. Clubs’ Memorandum, Major League Baseball Players Ass’n v. Chicago Cubs 3 (Tidrow), No. 80-18 (Nov. 4, 1980) (on file at Case Western Reserve Law Review).
525. Id at 14-15.
526. See Tidrow, supra note 518 and accompanying text.
527. See Tidrow, supra note 518, at 19.
528. See Tidrow, supra note 518, at 16.
[Vol. 31:685 COLLECTIVE BARGAINING]
University of Massachusetts- Amherst
Major League Baseball’s Grievance Arbitration System
by Glenn M. Wong, Professor of Sports Law
Entertainment and Sports Law
Marquette University School of Law
Entertainment and Sports Law Commons Journals at Marquette Law Scholarly Commons
Interpreting the NFL Player Contract
Professor Gary R. Roberts
Marquette Sports Law Review- Volume 3, Issue 1, Article 5, Fall
Vanderbilt University School of Law
Sports Law – Knight Commission: purpose was to examine NCAA athletics and make recommendations
Professor Joseph Fishman
University of Nevada-Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law
Course: Sports Law: Competition Law | National Collegiate Athletic Association
Professor Marc Kligman, Adjunct. Sports Law
University of Nevada William S. Boyd School of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law
Legal Professions: Sports Law
The Role of the Commissioner and Other Governing Authorities
Professor Alan W. Scheflin – Santa Clara Law
Quimbee Law School Case Briefs, Overview, Casebooks, study aids, BAR Review, and online Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses
Alvin Moore vs Atlanta Braves
Major League Baseball Arbitration Proceeding
MLB-MLBPA Arb. 77-18 (1977)
Professor A. Porter
Alvin Moore (plaintiff) signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Braves. The contract contained a clause that said if Moore was not satisfied with his playing time, the Braves were required to trade him to a team approved by Moore. The covenant also stated that if a trade were not completed by the end of the season, Moore was allowed to become a free agent if he so chose. At the time, Moore had less than one year of service in Major League Baseball (MLB). The league president (defendant) disapproved of this covenant. The president believed that the covenant was inconsistent with the collective-bargaining agreement agreed to by the league and the players’ union. This agreement required players to have a minimum of five years of service in MLB before they could become eligible for free agency. The players’ union filed a grievance on Moore’s behalf. The union cited the collective-bargaining agreement’s clause permitting special covenants that benefit players. The union maintained that the president could disapprove of a special covenant only if the covenant did not benefit the player. The league countered that this covenant effectively created an entirely new reserve system, contrary to what the league and players had previously agreed to. According to the league, the reserve system created by the collective-bargaining agreement was created to provide for an even and equitable distribution of players among all of the teams. Additionally, the collective-bargaining agreement contained a free agent re-entry procedure. By giving Moore the ability to determine his own free agency, the league argued, the covenant contravened the agreed-upon system. The league contended that a covenant that violated the collective-bargaining agreement and the rights of the other 25 MLB teams could not be permitted to stand simply because it benefited a player. The issue was brought before an arbitrator.
Course Hero Sports Law Outline
1968 Basic Agreement made the Commissioner the arbitrator clearly allowing for arbitration of reserve system grievances.
University of Texas School of Law
Course Title: LAW 111
6) Agent Representation – The collective agreement plays the ultimate governing role
a) The most prominent agents are lawyers who must know the collective agreement for the sport. It exercises considerable influence on the player K.
b) Alvin Moore & Atlanta Braves
– There are 3 reasons for the league president to disapprove a special covenant (Baseball)
i) If the covenant does not actually or potentially provide additional benefits to the Player
ii) If the covenant violates an applicable law or is prohibited by a League rule not inconsistent with the collective agreement.
iii) If the covenant purports to bind some third party whom the Club and Player have no authority to bind.
(1)Individual Player-Club negotiations are conducted within the framework of the attendant rules, agreements, and regulations that govern the sport.
(2)Variations in any of the provisions might give a Player additional benefit beyond the Club’s power to make
Quizlet, Sports Law 1-3
Alvin Moore & Atlanta Braves (1977)
Facts: Moore had a covenant with the Braves that stated Moore could become a free agent if he was not traded by the end of the season. This covenant is inconsistent with the CBA which mentions that only 5 year vets could be eligible for free-agency. Moore was only a 1 year vet. The player’s union sued on behalf of Moore.
Holding: Covenant between the Braves and Moore stands.
Reasoning: A Major League Baseball player and a team may agree to a contract that includes unique covenants, so long as those covenants do not infringe on the protected interests of other teams. Here, the 5 year vet standard is interpreted by the court as a provision that protects other teams. Since no interests of other teams are being protected, Moore’s covenant can stay.
Judd’s Sports Law Outline
SPORTS LAW OUTLINE
Chapter 1 – Best Interests of the Sport: The Role of the Commissioner and Other Governing Authorities
Alvin Moore & Atlanta Braves …
D. Arbitration as an Exclusive Remedy; § 301 Preemption