The return of pro sports should get messy real fast

Marc Elliott

BIG SANDY LAKE… In the past few days the talk surrounding the return of the NHL and the NBA to finish their incomplete regular seasons and then morph into their playoffs has increased considerably.

Back in March MLB formulated a plan that was agreed upon by the players, to play whatever number of games that was achievable under the circumstances and to do so at a prorated salary.

The latest plan to be placed on the table was for the league to commence play on July 1 and play 80 games and then proceed to the playoffs as they would be normally played.

In addition, the owners were seeking a 50-50 revenue split as well as a move to further reduce  the prorated salary amount based upon the financial hardships already imposed upon the league and to compensate for the empty stands the games would likely be held in front of.

On the surface this doesn’t seem to be unreasonable considering the fact there is no way any sports league or team will be profitable from the immediate past to the foreseeable future. That’s just not happening anytime soon.

So, you would think the players, or the majority of them, would be chomping at the bit to get back to what they love doing, playing the games they love.
Well, not so fast Baba Louie.

At least one MLB combatant, the Tampa Rays’ Blake Snell, suddenly says  he isn’t playing for anything other than his “full” salary. He states that with the risk of playing “through the roof” that it isn’t worth it to step onto the diamond for anything less than his full salary.

Holy contracts. Batman!

I’m not a scientist, (rocket or otherwise) doctor or lawyer. As a voracious reader, and now being officially at “old fart” status, I do know a few things, and obviously, as we haven’t been through anything like this in most of our lifetimes, any normally “accepted” ways of doing such are basically out the window.

So, can I break it down? I’ll try. As I have yet to hear any rumbling of this sort from hockey or hoops players, I’ll focus on the baseball situation. First off, there is Contract Law.

That is basically a situation whereby a business agreement takes place between two or more parties making a promise to do something (or not) creating an “enforceable contract under the law.”

For an agreement to be considered a “contract” one party must make an offer while another party must accept it. Then documents get signed, notarized and the like. All professional sports are familiar with this process and what is legal and what is not.

So, Snell and the Ray’s have an agreed upon and signed contract in place for his services. If either party broke any of the tenets they were to honor within the contract, that could become a point of contention forcing litigation to properly settle the matter. This could include the club not honoring the promised compensation or Snell not upholding his part of the contract, such as being unprepared to play at his best level etc.

I can’t say for certain but I’m guessing nobody’s contract includes any verbiage on how to handle a rampant virus situation.

I want to state here that I’m not taking any sides. I’m not going to whine about a greedy, spoiled athlete having a fit or the owners trying to take a yard after having a foot acceded to them. I can’t say what I’d do in their situation, it is absolutely complex.  

The club currently holds an agreement with said player. Enter the pandemic and the abrupt changes made in the normal conduct of their business. The club owners then requested the players make a concession regarding this season to prorate their compensation to the number of games to be played.

The players as a group accepted this, albeit not in unanimous fashion as we now know.

In my view this would supersede any player contracts in place at the time for the specified time frame of the prorate. At that point I believe the owners were going for an overreach by agreeing among themselves that they wanted the players to further reduce the salaries they would receive for the shortened season because it was likely the games would be played in empty stadiums.

A risk analysis would state that Snell is correct to be as concerned as he is.
I don’t believe we yet know the ins and outs of the coronavirus in totality. To act in any manner not in accordance with what people who do know about the risks would be irresponsible on multiple levels.

I can commiserate with the owners as well. They are going to lose money this season no matter what. Put yourself in their shoes. I think they are trying to protect their employees and minimize their losses at the same time.

Is that even possible? It’s an unenviable position to be in when money clouds morally right positions, and in my view the right position is to err on the side of caution, as unpalatable as that might be. Never would I choose money over human life, as in “never.”

It’s fairly clear that the virus can be deadly to some that become infected. Others survive. And for the most part it isn’t hard to note that the least casualties are occurring where the least number of people are at.

There IS something behind the requests to social distance. The densely populated Hennepin County has the most cases/deaths in Minnesota. Cook County, with it’s very sparse population, has yet to report any cases. As of this writing there are 700 deaths from COVID-19 in Minnesota. And while I can appreciate the utter desperation of some to return to life and business as normal, I can’t understand or condone the wont to be reckless and irresponsible.

Further, the national politicization of this issue is nauseating to say the least. That’s the avenue of the ignorant and uneducated. And if you are on that side of the fence, tough. Then change. Get with the program. You do NOT have the right to risk my life or that of my family.

Years back I learned in my Carnegie coursework to have empathy and understanding for everyone’s positions.

Considering that, I can appreciate both the MLB owners and Snell’s position. And I honestly can’t tell you which is the correct course. If you have to play ball in an empty stadium, maybe you shouldn’t play it yet.

And if you are incurring financial losses with each passing day, I can understand your desire to put a halt to that or minimize it.

Our national leadership is lacking in clarity on this matter and operates from a stance of blame and reaction when what is most needed is some clarity, the taking of responsibility and proaction.

Oh, and did I say hope? Yeah, we could really use some of that right about now … PEACE