By Ken Reed
In a head-shaking decision on June 19, 1972, the Supreme Court ruled against St. Louis Cardinal Curt Flood in an antitrust suit Flood brought against Major League Baseball (MLB) over MLB’s reserve clause, which stated that the original team signing a player controlled that player’s rights for the player’s entire career.
Flood rightly claimed that the reserve clause was a form of slavery.
In a letter to then baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, Flood wrote:
“After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.”
As columnist William C. Rhoden wrote, “Flood’s loss at the Supreme Court level in 1972 was a stinging rebuke to a courageous player who dared to attack a deeply entrenched system of sports bondage.”
Despite losing the case, Flood’s effort inspired the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) as a whole, and pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally in particular, to continue fighting baseball’s reserve clause. In 1975, the reserve clause was struck down in a case brought by Messersmith and McNally.
In 1998, Congress passed the Curt Flood Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. That law revoked baseball’s antitrust status (except for expansion, the minor leagues, and franchise relocation … that oversight is another subject for another day), a status that major league baseball had enjoyed for 75 years.
Flood’s pioneering efforts also led to the Curt Flood Rule, also known as the 10/5 Rule, in Major League Baseball. This rule states that after a player has ten years of Major League service time and has played for one team for at least five straight years, that player can’t be traded to another team without the player’s consent.
In 2020, 102 members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter, co-signed by players’ unions from the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLS, to the Baseball Hall of Fame asking the Hall to vote Flood in. However, various Hall of Fame committees have, to date, failed to give him enough votes for induction.
Fifty years later, that’s an injustice that needs to be fixed. Not only was Flood an All-Star player (in 1968, Sports Illustrated called Flood the game’s best centerfielder) and a key cog on two World Champion Cardinals teams, he sacrificed the latter years of his successful career for a righteous cause that changed the game for the better for the thousands of players that followed him.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
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.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon