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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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.

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Ralph Nader's op-ed opposing MLB owners' decision to appoint Bud Selig as commissioner


Baseball really better without a commissioner
by Ralph Nader

Baseball owners voted unanimously last week to take the "acting" off of Bud Selig's title and speak of him only as "commissioner."

Yet, like its bleak origins, the office of commissioner -- and Major League Baseball in general -- may be headed for its darkest days.

In 1919, players on the Chicago White Sox, or "Black Sox," as they're commonly known, decided their owner was too greedy. Too stingy. So they fixed the World Series against themselves and got the gamblers' money. They sold out themselves and the pure tradition of baseball.

What did the players get? Reportedly $10,000 each. What baseball got, however, was a full time commissioner -- Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Judge Landis threw the eight men out of the league and a total of almost 20 players in four years. He also attacked the minor league monopolies he felt were treating the players unfairly. But the owners considered him a threat to their right to run their "businesses."

"Who is a commissioner to say what we can and cannot do?" they asked.

Some years later they brought in Commissioner Ford Frick. For 14 years, he dazzled the owners with his philosophy: let all teams move who want to.

The Dodgers and Giants to California. The Braves from Boston to Milwaukee. The Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas City. And the St. Louis Browns to Baltimore. They all moved, and the owners loved Frick, although the fans didn't. Most fans -- especially in Brooklyn -- were heartbroken. Many were devastated. So long for the phrase "It's only sports."

That was many years and many commissioners ago. Now the question is, has anything changed?

The last time baseball had a full-time commissioner was Sept. 9, 1992. That's when baseball owners forced Fay Vincent out. He didn't want to conform to their future plans. So they got someone who would -- Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig.

Selig was nominated unanimously by the owners. A 30-0 vote for Selig, for the owners and their interests. Now he has free reign over baseball and the fans.

Since his coronation in 92, Selig has been successfully unsuccessful for baseball and, more importantly, baseball fans.

Against some owners better judgement he orchestrated the disastrous strike in 1994. He allowed the firestorm dismantling of the Florida Marlins this season after they had won the World Series. If the strike and the Marlins fiasco are any indication of things to come, we as fans, may be in for stormy weather.

That's why we need to unite -- to stand up against the Seligs of professional sports. We need to unite before more stadiums are funded with our money while greedy owners like Selig line their pockets with even higher sky-high ticket and concession money. We need to unite before teams like the Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins are no longer in their respective locations.

We want to form a group. A group of fans. We tried it 20 years ago but it ended because enough people didn't believe these dark days would ever come.

There's no name for the group yet. There's barely an office and only a few employees. What we do have are a couple of thousand letters from frustrated fans. Fans who want their collective voice heard. Fans who don't want to receive the cold shoulders of owners and players.

We need to know we have your support and, if you're interested, send us your thoughts. Let us know what problems in sports today concern you the most.

It's time we come together. It's time we make the sports powers answer to those who make professional sports possible -- the fans. If you agree, send your thoughts to Ralph Nader, c/o Fans, at P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC, 20036.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate

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