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 #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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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. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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.
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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