MLBPA wants charitable clauses out

Updated: March 22, 2009, 9:29 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The MLB Players' Association has filed a grievance on behalf of players who have a provision in their contracts under which they agree to make a donation through his club to a charitable organization, MLBPA chief operating officer Gene Orza confirmed to ESPN's Karl Ravech.

This type of clause came into the spotlight earlier this month when Manny Ramirez re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In his contract, the slugger agreed to make a $1 million donation to the Dodgers Dream Foundation. After Ramirez's deal was signed, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt announced that "every future Dodger" will be required to donate a portion of his salary to the foundation.

Not so fast, said the MLBPA. The grievance was filed Friday and, unless settled, will be decided by arbitrator Shyam Das.

"Players are free to choose to make donations to club charities, but clubs can't require such donations by contract," union general counsel Michael Weiner said Saturday. "Provisions that require players to make contributions to clubs' charities are unenforceable under the basic agreement. It's not a subject that the Basic Agreement permits individual bargaining on."

Orza said he needs to gather more information, but that in the grievance, the players' association argues that the agreements are unenforceable and of no benefit to the player.

Rob Manfred, MLB's exectuive vice president for labor relations, told Ravech, "The charitable contributions were freely negotiated between the clubs and players. We are surprised that they would attack such freely negotiated clauses. And we are shocked by the union's assertion that charitable activities do not provide a benefit to the players."

In the grievance, the MLBPA is seeking repayment by the clubs to the players for the amount they agreed to donate to charity.

MLB has come up with at least 109 players with these provisions thus far, but there could be more, as the league reads through all of the contracts. At least 22 teams are affected, and several marquee players, including Ramirez, are involved.

McCourt sounded surprised by the union's litigation.

"I have not seen the grievance, but I find it odd that in these challenging times, that we encounter a complaint against the idea of players giving back to the communities that support them," he said in a statement. "We believe there are qualities that represent the Dodger way. The player's contributions to the team, appreciation of the fans, and impact on such a supportive community all combine to help our organization live up to our core values. We seek players who embrace these values. The Ramirez provision is a blank line to be filled in with whatever number a player chooses."

Karl Ravech covers baseball for ESPN. The Associated Press contributed to this report.