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An Illusion Of Collusion, Or The Real Thing?

Labor law. It’s not the most interesting of law school subjects, but it is definitely not the worst. In fact, just yesterday, I was messing around with fellow Co-Founder of (yes, I was a founder of the site), Matthew Allinson, about how dry the subject can be. Anyway, a big issue that can come up in a discussion concerning labor law, is the possibility of collusion in ownership or the workforce. Collusion is a tool that is often used, even by rivals, to keep labor wages down or boost wages up. Those colluding agree to share wage information that is normally kept private in an effort to benefit the entire corporate system or a group of laborers. During the All-Star break, it has become a hot topic in baseball circles. It’s an age-old issue that surprisingly has resurfaced now, after being somewhat ignored when Barry Bonds and his agent, Jeff Borris, were crying foul not all that long ago.

MLB LogoPlayers shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs.

The MLBPA is the exclusive bargaining unit for MLB players, which means that the players’ association is the only entity that can file a grievance on behalf of the players and their angered agents.  The players and agents themselves have no other recourse than going through the MLBPA.  A bevy of agents, with Jeff Borris apparently as the designated spokesperson, have been vocal during the All-Star Break, claiming collusion in this past offseason (between the end of the 2008 season and the start of the 2009 season).  The agents may believe that they finally have a chance to persuade the MLBPA to take action, with the recent announcement by Donald Fehr that he will resign at the end of this season.  The man who will be taking his place is Michael Weiner.  Hopefully he is a better Executive Director than Philosopher.  Earlier this week, Weiner had two provoking statements regarding the potential of prior/continuing collusion:

“The investigation is ongoing but not complete because of things to review,” and “The new market will be what it’s going to be.”

Thanks for clearing that up.  On the other end, Bud Selig is telling agents to live in the real world.  Does the real world include setting up new training camps for free agent, established veterans who can’t find a job?  Because if you remember this article that I linked to in a former Friday Wrap-Up, while everyone was worrying about Manny Ramirez in the offseason (and continued to while he was suspended for 50 games and some guy named Juan Pierre helped the Dodgers establish themselves as legitimate World Series contenders), the MLBPA was considering the establishment of a special camp in Vero Beach because so many proven players were getting no love from MLB clubs.  I think I’ll pass on Selig’s recommendation.  I’d rather live in fantasy land.  In fantasy land, I may be able to see Barry Bonds play when he is 60-years-old.

The MLBPA has had success in the past when it filed grievances against the MLB owners for colluding.  If the market becomes what it’s going to be and these things finally get reviewed, maybe agents and players have a chance of convincing the players’ association to take a stand against the owners.  It has been quite some time.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.