The Cleveland Indians will finally get a new name

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It was a positive, on its own, that the NFL’s Washington franchise changed their name from one with a slur against Native Americans to the temporary “Washington Football Team.” There was also a potential trickle-down effect to look forward to, though, as, if even the franchise run by Dan Snyder could change their name and the culture of racism and appropriation that swirled around it, then it should be motivating for others with comparatively innocuous names like the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Indians to do something about their own issues.

That appears to be what has happened now, as Kansas City took steps in August to remove some racist elements from their stadium and game environment, and now we’ve got Cleveland finally admitting that it’s time to find a new name for their team. According to the New York Times, Cleveland will still retain its current name in 2021, but could shift away from it as early as the 2022 season. No other details are known at this point, as the team hasn’t announced their intentions yet, but are expected to sometime this week.

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Peter Ueberroth doesn’t deserve the passive voice

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The Society for American Baseball Research is 50 years old, and to celebrate, they’re putting together all kinds of lists 50 entries long. One such list is the top 50 Off-Field figures in MLB history, and I just want to start things out by saying I’m very into the idea of this. Seeing Roger Angell, Claire Smith, Marvin Miller, and yes, the San Diego Chicken receive recognition in the same list is a lot of fun! There is an entry that made me double-take, though — not because of the person’s inclusion, which is absolutely merited. But because of how they were presented within it:

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WWE might have finally pushed their workers too far

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World Wrestling Entertainment has long trampled on workers’ rights without anyone in the labor movement so much as lifting a finger in opposition. Their classification of workers as independent contractors isn’t new by any means, and neither is the lack of benefits for their performers, but WWE was basically left alone to do what they wished in this regard for decades. Now, though, they might have pushed too far, as the Screen Actors Guild is finally taking notice, and promising to begin protecting WWE’s independent contractors.

What brought on this sudden change in approach? That would be the firing of Zelina Vega, real name Thea Trinidad, for her refusal to hand over the keys to her Twitch account to WWE. Per a new edict from the world’s largest wrestling company, the third-party streaming accounts hosted by services like Twitch were actually under the jurisdiction of WWE: the plan, going forward, was to control those accounts, negotiate advertising partnerships themselves, and then divvy up the money generated by those platforms between WWE and the performers themselves. This is, in short, theft, as explained earlier this year:

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Tommy Heinsohn, union man and labor agitator

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On Tuesday, former Boston Celtics’ player, coach, and longtime announcer Tommy Heinsohn passed away. He was 86, and while best-known at this point in his life for the extremely, let’s say, Celtics-friendly announcing style he employed, he was a legit basketball legend in Boston thanks to his three careers in the sport: Heinsohn is in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, one of just four individuals to accomplish that feat, and had a championship ring for all 10 fingers.

Heinsohn was also a labor agitator as a player, if you’re wondering why you’re reading about him in this particular newsletter. He was the president of the players union back in 1964, which ended up being a monumental year for the players. You see, like with the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Basketball Players Association was a union without league recognition in its early years. They had actually formed back in 1954, but it took 10 years for the NBA to actually meet with and recognize them as a union. And this eventual recognition was managed in no small part thanks to the actions of Heinsohn himself, in his role as union president.

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MLB’s fallen TV ratings might be meaningless mid-pandemic, but on the other hand…

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​At the New York Times this week, Kevin Draper wrote about the television ratings that are way down for many of the sports playing during the coronavirus pandemic. The short version of the conclusion reached within is that there is little reason to panic just yet because it’s unclear exactly why Americans aren’t watching sports on TV like they usually do, and that’s a reasonable take. However, maybe there is a reason to be on alert when it comes to how Major League Baseball will inevitably react to lower ratings and what that could mean going forward for their massive television contracts.

Back in the 1980s, MLB signed a split television contract with two major networks, ABC and NBC, that would run between 1984 and 1989 and cover weekly national broadcasts and the World Series. The deal was a massive victory for MLB at the time, as they initially valued the entirety of what they were offering over five years at $900 million, but then managed to convince ABC and NBC to each take half by stretching the deal to six years, and in turn ended up pulling in $1.125 billion in 1983 dollars. Today, that’s the equivalent of a little under $3 billion.

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The History of Baseball Unionization: The MLBPA before it was the MLBPA

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Major League Baseball players had few rights before the signing of the first collective bargaining agreement in professional sports in 1968. They didn’t get all of their current rights all at once, either: the battle was, and is, an ongoing one. Before the Players Association, before Marvin Miller, there were other attempts to organize baseball players against the bosses. In this series, we’ll investigate each of those attempts, and suss out what went wrong. Here’s part 1part 2part 3, and part 4

You would think the formation of what we know now as the Major League Baseball Players Association would be something to celebrate without the caveats of the previous entries in this series, but that proto-MLBPA was a mess. Obviously, things improved — thanks, Marvin Miller — but that all took time. The initial version of the MLBPA formed back in 1953, and it wasn’t actually officially recognized as a union for another 13 years after that. And it wouldn’t have its first collective bargaining agreement for another two years, right before the 1968 season began.

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The History of Baseball Unionization: Where Murphy Money came from

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Major League Baseball players had few rights before the signing of the first collective bargaining agreement in professional sports in 1968. They didn’t get all of their current rights all at once, either: the battle was, and is, an ongoing one. Before the Players Association, before Marvin Miller, there were other attempts to organize baseball players against the bosses. In this series, we’ll investigate each of those attempts, and suss out what went wrong. Here’s part 1part 2, and part 3

It would be some time after the defeat of the Fraternity of Professional Baseball Players before any more serious unionization efforts occurred in Major League Baseball. And the next one was extremely localized, too: rather than an entire union and then league sprouting up from it, or a union that briefly benefited from the attempt of a third league to form, the American Baseball Guild’s most notable moment existed with just one (1) team: the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The year 1946 was a massive one for labor in America: post-war, with soldiers returning home from Europe and the Pacific to their old lives and old jobs, there was basically no way there would not be some kind of labor strife. Because of the sudden influx of workers from this return, wages fell — Major League Baseball was not immune to this, as they, an industry that continued on through the Second World War, had replacement players that had become regulars in the mix with players returning to their old roster spots, necessitating an expansion of rosters from 25 to 36. To keep payrolls level, teams reduced individual pay.

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The History of Baseball Unionization: When vaudeville ended a baseball strike

Major League Baseball players had few rights before the signing of the first collective bargaining agreement in professional sports in 1968. They didn’t get all of their current rights all at once, either: the battle was, and is, an ongoing one. Before the Players Association, before Marvin Miller, there were other attempts to organize baseball players against the bosses. In this series, we’ll investigate each of those attempts, and suss out what went wrong. Here’s part 1 and part 2

The Players Protective Association had a promising start when the budding American League used its desires for better wages and protections to steal players from the reigning National League, but it didn’t end up working out in the long run. That’s because the AL, like the capitalists investing in the Players League before it, ended up partnering with the NL and eliminating themselves as competition in the process.

A little less than a decade later, in 1912, the Fraternity of Professional Baseball Players of America formed, with former player Dave Fultz at the head. Fultz, like John Ward of the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players, had a background in law thanks to an education at Colombia, and was a practicing lawyer at the time of the formation of the Fraternity. He also kept in close contact with active players and their concerns, and those conversations — some about their continued gripes about the reserve clause, which no one had been able to permanently get rid of to that point — helped lead to the formation of the Fraternity.

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That time the Padres nearly became San Diego’s forever

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The NBA’s players might not want NBA approval anymore

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Earlier this month, I published a piece in this space that discussed, in part, how NBA players had missed an opportunity to wield their collective power by giving in to the league and resuming the season amid a pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality. Nathaniel Friedman and Jesse Einhorn, at The New Republic, went much further and deeper on that particular angle in a feature titled, “The Dismal Politics of the Sports World’s “Wokest” League.”

Within that piece, Friedman and Einhorn explained how there were two opposing camps when it came to the return: the one led by Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley wanted to tackle this moment in time by not playing, and instead do what they could to help and bring attention to the Black Lives Matter protests. The other camp, led by LeBron James, was more in concert with the NBA, with a different vision of activism. One more corporately approved, the thinking behind which led to this graph from the New Republic pair:

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