League of Fans

Founded by Ralph Nader, League of Fans is a sports reform project working to improve sports by increasing awareness of the sports industry's relationship to society, exposing irresponsible business practices, ensuring accountability to fans, and encouraging the industry to contribute to societal well-being.

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Alerts is League of Fans' email announcements list. Alerts provides news, information, the actions of League of Fans and/or Ralph Nader regarding sports issues, and calls-to-action for subscribers. All email updates are either selected or written by League of Fans.


League of Fans is motivated by people, just like you, who are upset with what has become of our sports and would like to make a difference. We work with concerned citizens, sports fans, civic groups and communities to increase awareness of the sports industry's relationship to society, influence a broad range of issues in sports at all levels and encourage the cooperative capacities that make the "sports powers-that-be" capable of helping, not just dominating, our society and culture.

News / Resources

We often think of sports as outside the realm of everyday citizen concern. But the many benefits to society that sports can provide are sometimes undermined by a different set of values, often based on the quest for higher and higher profits at the expense of fans, taxpayers, communities, culture and social justice.

Your Role

Get Involved! Your involvement will improve sports for communities and fans, and encourage the sports industry to better contribute to societal well-being.


League of Fans - March 12, 2004
- Wahconah Park
- Major League Sweatshops


- Wahconah Park

Built in 1892 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Wahconah Park still stands as a historic minor league baseball landmark. It was almost lost to the corporate welfare for stadiums epidemic that has swept through the country over the past 15-plus years. Focusing on what the major sports leagues have been able to get away with, it’s virtually impossible to give due time to the 113 minor league baseball stadiums built with taxpayer dollars since 1985.

Though Wahconah Park remains, Pittsfield has lost its team to the new stadium craze. But a great thing is happening. A partnership, led by best-selling author and former New York Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton, had their plan approved this week to purchase an independent league baseball team to play at a renovated Wahconah Park at no cost to taxpayers. The plan also includes: (1) no sale of the naming rights to Wahconah Park; (2) maintenance and repairs to be performed by the partnership; and (3) use for "other family and community activities on dates and at times when no event has been scheduled by the club," with only the proceeds from sales for partnership events to go to the partnership.

Bouton’s plan finally won out over a ramrod proposal from developers and local politicians to build a new $18.5 million taxpayer-funded stadium that: (1) the people of Pittsfield voted against three times; (2) included eminent domain land takings and the removal of people’s homes; and (3) was heavily lobbied for by the media conglomerate-owned newspaper, the Berkshire Eagle (the only daily in Pittsfield), which owned land a new stadium was to be built on and stood to benefit financially. The Berkshire Eagle’s conflict of interest became a major issue due to its incompetent reporting and repeated failures to disclose their parent company’s interest in the situation.


Read about the Wahconah Park story in Jim Bouton’s book “Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark.”

Bouton's group to invest $1.5M in Wahconah Park
Berkshire Eagle - March 9, 2004
...”Applause followed the five-member commission's unanimous vote, which was taken after city officials and the principals of Wahconah Park Inc. presented details of the eight-page agreement to the panel and an audience of about 40 people gathered at Springside House on North Street.”...

NOW Transcript: Bill Moyers talks to Jim Bouton, author of "Foul Ball"
PBS - November 28, 2003
...”MOYERS: You were up not just against the newspaper but a newspaper that had a stake in the opposing plan.
BOUTON: Right, right. THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE not only owned the property on which the new stadium would be built. The property was polluted. They never told the people that it was polluted. And they had an economic interest in the outcome of it because it would enhance the value of their property, plus relieve them of the liability of a cleanup. That would have passed to the people of Pittsfield had they voted for a new stadium.”...

Wild Pitch
American Journalism Review - February/March, 2004
...”it illustrates how corporate civic activism can entangle a newsroom and raise doubts about a newspaper's credibility, particularly when the news organization is financially involved in a project and does not disclose every detail to its readers.”...

The Saga Unfolds
American Journalism Review - February/March, 2004
...”October 4, 2001: The Pittsfield Parks Commission unanimously rejects Bouton's proposal in favor of a rival proposal by Jonathan Fleisig, owner of a dormant independent minor league team, to play at Wahconah Park, but leaves open the possibility of a new stadium. June 2003: Bouton self-publishes "Foul Ball," which chronicles his fight to save Wahconah Park against entrenched powers. November 24, 2003: After two money-losing seasons at Wahconah Park, Fleisig announces he will move his Berkshire Black Bears away from Pittsfield, citing "unrelenting" criticism of him and his team.”...

Bouton blasts Brooklyn builder
Field of Schemes - January 14, 2004
“Best-selling author and former big-league pitcher Jim Bouton visited the Brooklyn bar Freddy's this morning, to support residents threatened with eviction to make way for developer Bruce Ratner's proposed Nets arena, and help expose what he called ‘America's most costly hostage crisis.’”...



- Major League Sweatshops

United Students Against Sweatshops defines "sweatshops" as “factories that exploit people with wages that leave families hungry, bust unions, have unsafe working conditions, and show a brazen disregard for human rights and dignity.”

Our major sports leagues, like some other American companies, sometimes take advantage and profit from contracted factories who use sweatshop labor to make their licensed goods. They do this while demanding enforceable laws and harsh penalties to protect their own trademarks and products. Why don’t our major sports leagues respect human and worker rights in the factories that manufacture their licensed products?

The National Labor Committee has produced a series of investigative reports highlighting what our major sports leagues have been up to regarding sweatshops.


NBA Caught (Again) Selling Slave Labor Goods
National Labor Committee
“A month after the NBA admitted in the New York Times that it had seriously erred in selling NBA "I Love This Game" sweatshirts made under slave labor conditions in Burma, the NBA is at it again, selling more sweatshirts made in Burma.”

Toys of Misery 2004
National Labor Committee and China Labor Watch
“Production: “Bobblehead” dolls of major league players, produced under licensing agreements with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, NASCAR and the Collegiate Licensing Company.”

Baseball Workers Cry Foul: Rawlings Produces Pro-League Baseballs in Costa Rican Sweatshops (pdf)
National Labor Committee
...”Major League Baseball owners have no worker rights protections, standards or guidelines in their global sourcing guidelines. And the Baseball Players Association is financing its strike fund from royalties made on the backs of sweatshop workers paid pennies an hour across the developing world, who are making their products.”

Ralph Nader and League of Fans urge Major League Baseball to adopt worker rights standards for product licensing agreements - February 10, 2004
..."We cannot tell you that it comes as a shock to us that Major League Baseball properties do not have any workers rights guidelines in their licensing agreements. Baseball's business practices tend to disregard such principles of human decency as getting in the way of higher profits."...

Major League Baseball's response to Ralph Nader and League of Fans' letter urging Major League Baseball to adopt worker rights standards for product licensing agreements - February 25, 2004
...”I am sure you understand that we are not in a position to actively regulate the practices of each and every separate company with which we do business. Commissioner Selig has asked me to contact Rawlings to make inquiry about the issues you have raised. I will do so promptly.”...

League of Fans - Sweatshops Action!


*Take Action!*

1) Contact Bud Selig and Donald Fehr and urge them to respect human rights by including internationally recognized worker rights standards in Major League Baseball and Players Association licensing agreements.

Allan H. “Bud” Selig
Major League Baseball
245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10167
tel (212) 931-7800
fax (212) 949-8636

Donald M. Fehr
Executive Director
Major League Baseball Players Association
12 East 49th Street, 24th Floor
New York, NY 10017
tel (212) 826-0808
fax (212) 752-4378
email: [email protected]

2) (From the National Labor Committee) Ask NBA Commissioner David Stern to Do The Right Thing

David Stern
National Basketball Association
645 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
tel (212) 407-8000
fax (212) 754-6414

Ask Commissioner Stern to:
- Stop using slave labor;
- Get the NBA out of Burma;
- Remove the NBA sweatshop goods made in Burma from your store and give them away to inner city charities;
- Disclose the names and addresses of the factories the NBA uses around the world to make your goods - demonstrate to the American people that the NBA has nothing to hide;
- Guarantee that all future NBA production will be conditioned on strict adherence to internationally recognized human and worker rights standards.

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GOOD SPORTS / BAD SPORTS is an email bulletin of recent news items and suggested actions regarding issues in the world of sports. It goes out regularly to League of Fans "Alerts" listserv subscribers.

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Founded by Ralph Nader, League of Fans is a sports reform project working to improve sports by increasing awareness of the sports industry's relationship to society, exposing irresponsible business practices, ensuring accountability to fans, and encouraging the industry to contribute to societal well-being.

To find out more about League of Fans, visit www.leagueoffans.org or write to [email protected]