By Ken Reed
As part of a lawsuit alleging that Major League Baseball (MLB) owners are not complying with minimum wage laws, minor league players won a victory in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last Friday when it was ruled that the class-action suit could proceed. The appellate court’s ruling reversed a judge’s 2017 ruling.
“They (MLB owners) should be complying with those laws just like Walmart is complying with those laws,” said Garrett Broshuis, an attorney representing the minor league players.
Given the huge salaries players at the Major League level enjoy, most people have no idea how poorly compensated minor league baseball players are. From an economic perspective, the lifestyles of minor league players have very little in common with Major League players.
It’s a perfect situation for economic exploitation: powerful Major League baseball owners, operating a self-regulated monopoly, who control the minor league system and determine what to pay minor league players; a large supply of young aspiring baseball players in high school and college passionately chasing their Major League dreams; and the lack of a minor league baseball players union to protect the players’ interests.
Players starting at the lowest levels of minor league baseball make approximately $1,100/month. Players at the highest levels of the minor leagues can make close to $2200/month in their first year at that level, with slight increases thereafter. However, it’s important to note that those wages are for the regular season only, which is about six months. Players don’t get paid for spring training or any training sessions during the rest of the calendar year.
As a result, a large percentage of minor league baseball players have annual incomes that place them below the U.S. poverty line. In fact, players at the lowest levels of the minors have hourly wages that work out to little more than $4/hour, based on the typical 60-hour workweek of minor league players.
Meanwhile, revenue for Major League Baseball owners has skyrocketed during the past decade, due largely to dramatic increases in media income.
According to Statista, a statistics website, Major League Baseball’s 30 teams generated around $9.5 billion in total revenue during the 2017 season, almost twice the revenue generated ten years prior, when total revenue was closer to $5.5 billion.
MLB franchise values are also soaring. Strong revenue growth has had a major impact on the valuation of MLB franchises. In 2017, the average franchise value was estimated at $1.54 billion, a new high.
Despite this strong financial picture, owners have refused to throw minor leaguers a few bones. Minor league player salaries have remained stagnant for a decade.
Have Major League Baseball owners no shame?
Of course, that’s a rhetorical question.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon