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MLBPA stands united, “resoundingly rejects” push for further salary concessions

Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The troubled efforts between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association to restart the 2020 season took another dark turn as union executive director Tony Clark said the players are strongly united in their rejection of management’s push for additional salary reductions as a means to resume games.

Following a conference call among the MLBPA’s executive board and more than 100 MLB players, Clark reiterated the group’s opposition to additional pay cuts beyond what was previously agreed to in March as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded.

The union is also strongly against MLB’s emerging efforts to impose a 50-game season that would see players paid less than a third of their original 2020 contracts. 

“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless players negotiate salary concessions,” Clark said. “The concessions being sought are in addition to the billions in player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

“This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless players agree to further reductions.”

Recapping the player call, Clark added, “the league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”

The MLBPA did previously propose a 114-game schedule, more than 30 games longer than what management originally put forth, with prorated salaries from the 2020 contracts along with the additional components Clark detailed. But that union effort was quickly rejected by owners.

The two sides remain roughly $1.6bn apart in aggregate player compensation, as a sliding-scale pay plan owners proposed and was rejected by the union would have paid players about $1.2bn of the roughly $4bn of their original 2020 salaries. The union’s 114-game plan, conversely, would have seen about $2.8bn in player payments.

“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone,” Clark said.

The ongoing struggles within baseball continue to differ sharply from many other major US sports properties that are increasingly make steps toward resuming play. Just this week, the National Basketball Association’s Board of Governors endorsed a 22-team return-to-play plan, with approval by the National Basketball Players Association expected on June 5, while Major League Soccer struck a labor deal with the MLS Players Association to jumpstart its resumption efforts.