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How Are Trades Ethical and Legal?

Old 03-17-04, 06:16 PM
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How Are Trades Ethical and Legal?

I enjoy reading about big trades the same as the next guy... and I know they are an ingrained part of all professional sports... but really, how can player trading be legal?

Take the NFL. They make a big deal as to how they are not one single corporation, but instead are 30 different independent franchises -- and in practice, this is certainly the case. A player signs a contract with a team, and then that team trades him to another franchise. How is that legal? Couldn't the player simply refuse to go? What other job would force you to pack up and move off to another city just on their whim, without you having a single choice in the matter?

(I know about job transfers, but I could always refuse a transfer and find another job. You simply don't have that freedom in a professional league. And besides, if they are entirely seperate franchises, it wouldn't exactly be a "transfer" -- you would still be expected to remain under contract to the new franchise.)

From an ethical standpoint, we demand loyalty and fealty from our sports heroes. Players are expected to play as hard as they can for one team, one group of players, and for the city they represent. Suddenly a player that has for so long identified himself as part of a team is cut off, cast away. He is then expected to swear new allegiances and give the same devotion to his new franchise that he had for the other. How can we honestly expect a player to play as part of a team if we treat him as just another disposable part?

Your thoughts?
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Old 03-17-04, 06:26 PM
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You didnt make much of an argument that it is unethical and you certainly didnt make a good argument that it should be illegal.

Players know the rules and there are countless situations where they actively seek out to be traded. It benefits the players just as much as the owners. Do you actually believe if the players didnt like the trade concept, the MLBPA would allow it?


And dont bother trying to make analogies with "regular jobs". They are totally different.
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Old 03-17-04, 06:44 PM
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Originally posted by chrisih8u
You didnt make much of an argument that it is unethical and you certainly didnt make a good argument that it should be illegal.

Players know the rules and there are countless situations where they actively seek out to be traded. It benefits the players just as much as the owners. Do you actually believe if the players didnt like the trade concept, the MLBPA would allow it?


And dont bother trying to make analogies with "regular jobs". They are totally different.
Not all players actively seek out to be traded. In fact, the vast majority of trades happen despite the interests of the player, not because of it. Yes, Terrel Owens and A-Rod eventually got to the teams that they wanted, but they are the exception, not the rule.

You bring up the MLBPA. Case in point -- basbeball is one of the few sports that routinely allows a "no-trade" clause. Most veteran players insist on this as part of their contract. In the NFL, NBA and NHL, players don't even get that kind of freedom -- if a player is under contract, then he is essentially a commodity, and is treated accordingly.

Dismissing the improprietry of trades by saying that professional athletes have "irregular jobs" is not only absurd, it has been consistently refuted. Professional sports teams are subject to the same labor laws as the rest of the country. That is why free agency came to pass. That is why Maurice Clarett is going to be playing for the NFL next year.

Final point -- don't say I don't make "much of an argument" and then turn around and make such weak points yourself. Take it to the rim strong, big fellow, or don't take it there at all.
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Old 03-17-04, 06:53 PM
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They don't trade players, they trade rights to players. Big difference.
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Old 03-17-04, 06:56 PM
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Originally posted by NCMojo

Final point -- don't say I don't make "much of an argument" and then turn around and make such weak points yourself. Take it to the rim strong, big fellow, or don't take it there at all.

Ok, so why should it be illegal? Tell me why congress should vote to outlaw professional sports trades.


My argument is that it benefits the players as well as the owners. I dont think its a weak point at all. The union protects the players interests. If it should be illegal, the union would fight to outlaw it. Has a player sued in court to have this done?

The reason I said your arguments were weak were because you didnt say why it should be illegal, and your ethical argument rambled into a loyalty rant. Players arent slaves and arent traded like baseball cards. They always have the option of not playing professional sports.
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Old 03-17-04, 06:57 PM
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Originally posted by TexasGuy
They don't trade players, they trade rights to players. Big difference.
Or in the case of established players, they trade contracts. Either way, it amounts to the same thing -- if the player wishes to remain employed in his chosen profession, he has to pack up and move to another town. How is that legal?

What is the "big difference" in your opinion?
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Old 03-17-04, 07:01 PM
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Originally posted by NCMojo
Or in the case of established players, they trade contracts. Either way, it amounts to the same thing -- if the player wishes to remain employed in his chosen profession, he has to pack up and move to another town. How is that legal?

What is the "big difference" in your opinion?

They always are trading the rights of players. A team doesnt "own" the player.

The player doesnt have to pack up and move. How many players live outside of the city they play in?
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Old 03-17-04, 07:13 PM
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Originally posted by NCMojo
What is the "big difference" in your opinion?

Because players don't have a "job", they have a contract for their services. Once the contract is signed, it becomes a little different from normal employment. You cited cases for labor laws, but the cases you cited were Clarett (note: not under contract) and free agents (again, not under contract).
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Old 03-17-04, 07:17 PM
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oh, and the free agency/Clarett cases were not about labor laws, they were about collusion (sp?) of the league owners.
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Old 03-17-04, 07:23 PM
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Originally posted by TexasGuy
oh, and the free agency/Clarett cases were not about labor laws, they were about collusion (sp?) of the league owners.
Neither of these cases were actually settled as a matter of contract law. Both of these were interpretations of federal labor laws.

And the distinction between trading a player and trading a contract -- or the rights to sign a player to a contract -- is a pretty thin line. A contract is an agreement between two sides -- I don't think one of the sides can unilaterally "sell" that contract without nullifying the explicit agreement.

Are there any lawyers out there that can confirm or deny this statement?
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Old 03-17-04, 07:23 PM
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Originally posted by chrisih8u
Players know the rules and there are countless situations where they actively seek out to be traded. It benefits the players just as much as the owners. Do you actually believe if the players didnt like the trade concept, the MLBPA would allow it?
Well, it sometimes benefits the players. That's why no-trade or limited trade clauses exist. That's why baseball has the 10/5 rule, or whatever it's called, where a 10 yr veteran who has spent the last 5 yrs with one club can reject a trade.

(which BTW is another reason why the Reds may try to trade Griffey before the year is up -- it's his 5th year in Cincinnati.)
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Old 03-17-04, 07:31 PM
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Originally posted by NCMojo
Neither of these cases were actually settled as a matter of contract law. Both of these were interpretations of federal labor laws.

And the distinction between trading a player and trading a contract -- or the rights to sign a player to a contract -- is a pretty thin line. A contract is an agreement between two sides -- I don't think one of the sides can unilaterally "sell" that contract without nullifying the explicit agreement.

Are there any lawyers out there that can confirm or deny this statement?
Why would you want a lawyers opinion on this? Do you think that out of the hundreds of lawyers in professional sports, nobody picked up on this except you?

Dont you think that an agent would have tried to sue if he thought that trading was against the law? Try calling Gene Upshaw or Don Fehr if you want the legal mumbo jumbo that allows owners to trade players rights.

The players collectively areed to trades. I havent read the contracts between the owners and players, but Im sure there is wording about trades.
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Old 03-17-04, 07:41 PM
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well, the player isn't a slave. he doesn't have to go to the new team he's traded to. he can take a different job if he wants to, just not in the same industry. how is it any different than if you sign a contract to work for a large "regular" company, and then they transfer you across the country? you can break the contract and stay put and take a different job.
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Old 03-17-04, 07:42 PM
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I accept that it is party of the CBA of MLB, and that it is probably written into the CBA of most professional leagues. But the fact is that you cannot negotiate away the rights guaranteed by federally-mandated labor laws.

My main question is: what makes trading a player legal? Why hasn't Don Fehr or Gene Upshaw taken this to court?
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Old 03-17-04, 07:44 PM
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Originally posted by Billman
well, the player isn't a slave. he doesn't have to go to the new team he's traded to. he can take a different job if he wants to, just not in the same industry. how is it any different than if you sign a contract to work for a large "regular" company, and then they transfer you across the country? you can break the contract and stay put and take a different job.
Because every one of the major sports franchises are essentially monopolies. If you want to play professional football there is really only one league -- the NFL.

If you get traded and try to play for another league or another team, you'd get hauled into court. Thus, there is no "different job" for you to go to. If you want to make money in your chosen profession, you have no choice but to move off to another city.
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Old 03-17-04, 07:59 PM
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Originally posted by NCMojo
Neither of these cases were actually settled as a matter of contract law. Both of these were interpretations of federal labor laws.
No, they were interpretations of antitrust laws. I didn't have time to look up the free agency case, but IIRC the justification was almost identical to the Clarett case:
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4178186
"On Feb. 5, U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that an NFL rule barring eligibility to Clarett and other underclassmen from Aprilís draft violates antitrust law."

And the distinction between trading a player and trading a contract -- or the rights to sign a player to a contract -- is a pretty thin line. A contract is an agreement between two sides -- I don't think one of the sides can unilaterally "sell" that contract without nullifying the explicit agreement.
I personally had to sign an employment contract several years back (although for a lot less money than an NFL star). It included many personal conduct clauses, etc., but it definitely had a clause that said my employer could transfer me anywhere in the world virtually at the employer's whim. It also included clauses saying I could void the contract if transferred, but if I wanted to keep getting paid, I'd have to move.
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Old 03-17-04, 08:27 PM
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Originally posted by NCMojo
Because every one of the major sports franchises are essentially monopolies. If you want to play professional football there is really only one league -- the NFL.

If you get traded and try to play for another league or another team, you'd get hauled into court. Thus, there is no "different job" for you to go to. If you want to make money in your chosen profession, you have no choice but to move off to another city.
But professional sports leagues aren't the only profession where employees can be contracted to their employer. In addition, many employees sign no-compete clauses, which in a sense eliminates their right to work in the industry outside of a particular employer. And these employees can get transferred too.

But seriously. If it was illegal... it wouldn't have gone on for 100 years. SOmebody wouldve caught it at some time, obviously. So it's more or less a moot argument.
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Old 03-17-04, 08:39 PM
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Originally posted by NCMojo
But the fact is that you cannot negotiate away the rights guaranteed by federally-mandated labor laws.
Actually you can. The reason has something to do with the collective bargaining agreement. I don't know the exact details, but having a collective bargaining agreement exempts labor laws.
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Old 03-17-04, 09:21 PM
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Originally posted by WildcatLH
But professional sports leagues aren't the only profession where employees can be contracted to their employer. In addition, many employees sign no-compete clauses, which in a sense eliminates their right to work in the industry outside of a particular employer. And these employees can get transferred too.

But seriously. If it was illegal... it wouldn't have gone on for 100 years. SOmebody wouldve caught it at some time, obviously. So it's more or less a moot argument.
Translation -- as usual, NCMojo is stupid
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Old 03-17-04, 10:49 PM
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Originally posted by NCMojo
A contract is an agreement between two sides -- I don't think one of the sides can unilaterally "sell" that contract without nullifying the explicit agreement.

Are there any lawyers out there that can confirm or deny this statement?
A contract can easily be transfered to a third party. It is called an assignment. If you don't want your contractual partner to have this right you need to include language restricting the right of assignment. Thus the no trade clause is a form of non-assignment language.
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Old 03-18-04, 12:36 AM
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Originally posted by wlmowery
A contract can easily be transfered to a third party. It is called an assignment. If you don't want your contractual partner to have this right you need to include language restricting the right of assignment. Thus the no trade clause is a form of non-assignment language.
Dammit, I read through the whole thread saying "I can't believe nobody has talked about assignment!" Then you have to step in on the last post and steal my thunder!

Mojo, this is the answer. The contract for the player's services is assignable.
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Old 03-18-04, 02:10 AM
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NCMojo, you have gotten a great deal of good answers to your question. It sounds like you just don't like the idea of the owners of a business being able to make the rules for their businesses and having owners and players negotiate contracts with each other.
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Old 03-18-04, 02:16 AM
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Originally posted by Bushdog
Translation -- as usual, NCMojo is stupid




Anyhow the question has been answered, it's because of how contracts work
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Old 03-18-04, 05:39 AM
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Originally posted by NCMojo
Because every one of the major sports franchises are essentially monopolies. If you want to play professional football there is really only one league -- the NFL.

If you get traded and try to play for another league or another team, you'd get hauled into court. Thus, there is no "different job" for you to go to. If you want to make money in your chosen profession, you have no choice but to move off to another city.

Right. You have signed a contract to take one of about 1500 available jobs all under the umbrella of the NFL. You should have chosen a profession with more flexibility if you like to move around.
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Old 03-18-04, 10:56 AM
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Originally posted by movielib
NCMojo, you have gotten a great deal of good answers to your question. It sounds like you just don't like the idea of the owners of a business being able to make the rules for their businesses and having owners and players negotiate contracts with each other.

I don't think he's complaining about negotiation, but instead about the inequitable positions of the player and the NFL. Is it illegal? I don't know that it is, so I can't agree with him there. I might agree that it is unethical though.

I have a contract with my employer, but they cannot legally stop me from going to work for one of their competitors once I complete my contract with them. So, is it ethical that an NFL team can dictate this to their employees? If you think so, then would you say it's OK for any company to make a rule that once you've signed a contract to work for them they have permanent rights to your contract and that they can tell you "you cannot ever work for our direct competition unless we decide it's OK"? If you are in the NFL, this essentially means you have to find a new career if you disagree with "the company".
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