Human rights are political

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If you’re confused about how “Human rights are political” is the headline of a sports story in a sports newsletter, then you missed a couple of items from this past week in MLB. On Monday, MLB’s Twitter account tweeted out video of Giants’ players and manager Gabe Kapler kneeling during the national anthem, and then responded to a fan who wanted to “keep politics out of baseball” by saying, “Supporting human rights is not political.”

You might think hey, that’s a social media person, not an individual with any real power outside of the trust given to them to handle MLB’s social media messaging, so it is not necessarily a reflection of anything, but then Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said something similar in response to the enormous Black Lives Matter billboard (in Red Sox font) outside of Fenway Park, stating that:

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Sports aren’t taking coronavirus resources from the public, unless they are

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We have been assured, again and again, that there are enough coronavirus tests available that athletes being continually tested throughout the return of sports won’t be taking away tests from the public. This is a point I have a hard time believing on its face, because no one has bothered to show the math on that yet, but I’m willing to acknowledge that it might be the truth. The thing is, though, that this line, that there are enough tests to go around and resources aren’t being taken away from the public in order to test and retest and retest athletes yet again, is still misleading. Because even if there are enough tests, it’s clear there aren’t enough or robust enough labs to analyze all of the tests: it doesn’t matter if you have enough tests if you lack the machines or technicians to analyze them all in a timely fashion.

Priority is being given to athletes over regular people, and that is where the resource issue is.

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On ‘when and where’ and MLB’s latest proposal drama

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It’s been a wild few days for those watching the negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. Last week, MLB stopped whispering and started yelling that they could impose a 48-game season on the PA, and, in one of those moments where people in power say their opponent is doing the thing they themselves are guilty of, accused the union of negotiating in bad faith. The PA responded by telling MLB to go ahead and set a schedule — “tell us when and where” to play — and MLB suddenly changed their tune upon realizing what was happening. The Players Association had backed MLB into a corner, which is not a place the owners have found themselves in for at least a couple of decades now.

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Leagues speaking up about Black lives rings hollow

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New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees deserves to be derided for somehow still not understanding what the protests that saw Colin Kaepernick blacklisted from the National Football League were even about, but he’s far from alone in who we should be judging in this moment in time. The various sports leagues themselves have released statements that read like they knew everyone was expecting them to say something about the protests against police brutality of Black Americans, but wanted to make sure they said as little of substance as possible in the process.

This compulsory form of statement-releasing and posting is essentially a call of “Please Like Me” to a wide array of fans. These teams, leagues, and even some of the athletes within them want to be recognized as not explicitly racist or tone deaf, but they also don’t want to actually do anything besides collect on that acknowledgement. Take a look at the NFL’s statement, signed by commissioner Roger Goodell, for instance:

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Minor League player pay isn’t guaranteed past the fast-approaching May 31

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The dispute between Major League Baseball and the Players Association has loomed large over the sport essentially since the 2020 season was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s not the lone story out there. Minor League Baseball players aren’t sure if they are going to have a season, either, and the temporary pay solution put in place to help get them through their own postponed 2020 is set to come to an end… with no real sign that it will be extended, either.

Said temporary solution — $400 per week — came in the wake of MLB being criticized for essentially forcing their minor leaguers to pack up and go home, but stay in game shape to be recalled at a moment’s notice, and all without any financial support from the league. Minor League players, still under contract, couldn’t apply for unemployment, and with no idea of when they were coming back, couldn’t necessarily apply to other part-time or temporary jobs, either. That’s still the case, and yet, after May 31, their $400 per week will come to an end.

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MLB’s teams need to pay their concession workers, too

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On March 17, Major League Baseball announced that each of its 30 teams would set aside $1 million to pay stadium workers during the postponement of the 2020 regular season. With the COVID-19 pandemic here for an indefinite stay, it’s unknown when America, never mind MLB, will be able to return to business as usual. That $1 million is a start toward making sure those sports workers impacted by the postponement of the season — who usually make less than $15 an hour — are taken care of.

The emphasis there, though, should be on how this is a start. That $1 million per team isn’t going to last very long, not with the sheer volume of employees needed to run a stadium on an administrative level and to keep its grounds in order. Outside of that, though, are also tens of thousands of concessions workers. While MLB and its teams pulled in positive press for the headline-worthy assistance package worth $30 million, it doesn’t even begin to cover all of the workers that make live baseball possible.

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MLB can leak all the return plans they want, but they won’t work

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On Tuesday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on the discussions Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have been having about starting the currently postponed 2020 season. Nothing within is promising, even if it’s, as Passan put it, the “likeliest to work, and has been embraced by MLB and MLB Players Association leadership, who are buoyed by the possibility of baseball’s return and the backing of federal officials.”

“Likeliest to work” could mean anything, mathematically, and as evidenced by MLB themselves even admitting they don’t have a plan within a plan here to restart baseball amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s good to remember that “likeliest” probably means MLB could state that this improved plan has a non-zero chance of working, unlike some of their other plans, which are at zero percent.

Here’s the quick rundown, again via Passan:

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MLB, MLBPA both benefit from COVID-19 agreement, but MiLB will suffer

Difficult decisions were necessary for Major League Baseball and the Players Association to hammer out a deal while working with so many unknowns in what is now, officially, a postponed regular season. If Jeff Passan’s reporting on the situation is any indication, then both parties made sacrifices, but came away with key measures that will help them weather a shortened, or even potentially fully canceled, 2020 regular season.

However, the parties not at the table are the ones that fared the worst: Minor League Baseball now looks like they’re in a position for MLB to force the disaffiliation of dozens of clubs on to them by way of coronavirus fallout, while current and potential MiLB players would then face a lack of both jobs and even opportunities to be signed.

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MLB is forcing MiLB players to leave spring training, without pay or hope

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Spring training is officially over, and the Major League Baseball Players Association sent out a memo to its members telling them they could stay at the spring training facility, go home, or head to the city that their team plays in. The allowances teams give to players during spring training, like for housing, are still in effect. The on-field facilities players use to prep for the regular season will remain open to those who stay, as well, and teams will assist in flying out the families of any players who had their families with them in Arizona or Florida, to boot.

According to minor-league players spoken to under the condition of anonymity, MLB’s response was much more terse and disconcerting: go home. It was left up to each individual team to craft their own message to their minor-league players that said as much, but that was what had to be relayed from above. Go home, whether you’re a domestic or international player. Go home, because you, as minor-league players, don’t have the protections and rights to negotiating an exit as unionized players.

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American sports’ response to coronavirus is still lacking

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Despite the growing threat of coronavirus — which the World Health Organization is close to calling a pandemic, which now has over 1,000 confirmed cases in the United States despite America failing to test for the virus at the same rate as other afflicted countries — American sports leagues, for the most part, are going about business as usual.

Yes, the media is now barred from locker rooms and clubhouses across four major active sports (MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS), but fans are still attending those games. Media members can’t get within six-to-eight feet of a player to interview them, but 20,000-plus people still get to sit elbow-to-elbow, eating food from a concessions worker who can’t afford to take the day off if they have a cough, and then those 20,000 people disperse into the world once more, potentially carrying COVID-19 with them into their next interactions.

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