Major League Baseball’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams is already stunningly unpopular among fans and lawmakers, and now a presidential candidate is making his feelings known.
Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders released a scathing letter he wrote to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday, which called out MLB’s proposal as bad for fans, communities, and baseball itself.
In his letter, Sanders echoes the points made in the letter over 100 congresspeople sent to Manfred last week (that fans and communities would be negatively impacted if this proposal went through), but he goes even further.
Sanders calls out MLB’s proposal for what it is: the unchecked greed of MLB team owners looking to increase their already large profit margins by depriving communities of their local minor league teams.
Over 41 million fans went to see a minor-league baseball game last year – over 1 million more than the previous year. Depriving American families in small and midsize towns the only opportunity they have to see a live baseball game with future big league players at a reasonable price is both unwise and unnecessary.
It’s unwise because you will turn off families and young children across the country to the game of baseball. It’s unnecessary because major-league baseball is making record-breaking profits and the owners of MLB teams have never had it so good.
While minor-league baseball players make as little as $1,160 a month (less than the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage) and are denied overtime pay, the 20 wealthiest Major League Baseball owners have a combined net worth of more than $50 billion. The average Major League Baseball team is now worth nearly $1.8 billion and made $40 million in profits last year alone, a 38 percent increase from the previous year.
Let’s be clear. Your proposal to slash the number of minor league teams has nothing to do with what is good for baseball, but it has everything to do with greed. Your proposal to throw about 1,000 ball players out of work comes less than three months after an appeals court ruled that minor league baseball players could move forward with a class action lawsuit seeking higher wages.
Sanders ends his letter by questioning the continued existence of MLB’s holy anti-trust exemption, which allows it to operate like a monopoly and shields “the business of baseball” from lawsuits.
Sanders has argued for the rights of workers and the end of corporate greed for his entire career, but he also has a personal stake in this: A team from his home state, the Vermont Lake Monsters, is on the list of teams that would be eliminated.
Manfred and deputy commissioner Dan Halem have continued to defend the proposal despite the outcry from fans, minor league employees, and the lawmakers they depend on to promote laws that benefit MLB.
Now that Sanders has come out so strongly against the proposal, there’s a chance that other candidates could follow. A team in Elizabeth Warren’s home state of Massachusetts is on the chopping block. Joe Biden grew up in Pennsylvania, which has three teams on the list. And Iowa, the first primary state, also stands to lose three teams if the proposal goes through.
The only way this doesn’t become a campaign issue is if Manfred and the owners kill the entire proposal. As long as it continues to exist, all MLB will get is even more bad press and increasing numbers of angry fans and lawmakers.
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