Remember when Jaime McCourt, wife of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and new team president, chose to undermine then-free-agent Manny Ramirez by comparing his salary demands to the amount of money it would take to build 50 youth baseball fields? Well, the Dodgers eventually mended fences with Manny and super agent Scott Boras by bringing the charismatic slugger back into the fold for $45 million over two years. Well, really it was $44 million, because the McCourts insisted Manny donate $1 million to the Dodgers Dream Foundation to help build those fields for underprivileged cancer kids with twelve toes or something.
Fast forward two weeks and the public-relations-challenged legal department at the Players Union have decided now would be a good time to file a grievance against the Dodgers and twenty-one other teams for these so-called forced charitable donations.
"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."
Article II of baseball's labor agreement states contracts can include special covenants "which actually or potentially provide additional benefits to the player."
So basically, a team can include special wording in contracts that allows for luxury boxes, use of corporate jets, and unlimited baskets of plantains. Weiner claims that forced charitable donations are not beneficial to players, and he's right, especially in Manny's case. Charity feels best when it is not an contractual obligation, but rather emerges out of the kindness of one's heart. To write it off merely as a public relations benefit as McCourt does is dishonest and, frankly, despicable:
"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."
Forcing players to make a donation is one thing, but forcing players to make a donation specifically to an organization that serves first to stroke the collective ego of McCourt and his wife is simply miserable. The McCourts claim that they donate money to the foundation out of their own pockets, but don't make their tax returns public, so we have no idea what percentage of their own earnings go towards charitable contributions. So while we fans can track every dollar Manny makes in salary and used grill sales, his employers continue to preen about how wonderfully giving they are and prepare for their ascent into heaven. Or for their reincarnation, depending on what exactly they believe in.