LOS ANGELES – Major League Baseball's Players Association is seeking to strike provisions in player contracts that require donations to designated team charities, according to union sources, and will not ask for financial reimbursement, despite language in the grievance that appears to request compensation for past donations by its players.
The union lists 22 teams it claims include such "special covenants" in its standard player contracts. On behalf of 109 players, the grievance not only asks the arbitration panel to declare the clauses "unlawful," but also requests the body "should award such relief as necessary to make each affected player whole, and should award such other relief as appropriate."
MLB officials understood that language to mean the union was asking for some money back.
Among the players whose contracts the union believes violate the collective bargaining agreement are four members of Team USA – Ryan Braun, David Wright, Roy Oswalt and Ted Lilly. None said he wished to be reimbursed. And none was particularly familiar with the grievance, though Wright said he was notified of the grievance by email. Braun was unaware of it until told by a reporter before Sunday's World Baseball Classic semifinal game against Japan.
"I would have at least liked to have known about it," Braun said. "I don't want people to think I'm anti-charity. To file a grievance without getting everybody's permission is probably not the right thing."
The union is attempting to keep players from being coerced into donating to the clubs' preferred charities, sources said, and asking MLB to recognize such provisions as legally unenforceable.
"We don't want a dime back," a union source said.
Baseball officials argued players are free to refuse such donations, including participating in the so-called "Manny Ramirez provision," which Dodgers owner Frank McCourt claimed would be a part of every Dodgers contract, a requirement that appears to have spurred the grievance.
"These clauses were individually negotiated between players and clubs," MLB vice president Rob Manfred said. "The idea the union would come in after the fact and try to undo those clauses is a surprise to me. And the union's assertion a charitable donation does not provide a benefit to a player is shocking."