The sports industry is a successful boom of activity, with millions of fans helping to make sports a multibillion-dollar industry. With different sports comes different leagues, each with different ways of legally regulating liability amongst themselves. Popular sports leagues such as the MLB, the NBA, or the NFL all have what is called, a Collective Bargaining Agreement. A Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA, is a set of rules and policies that have been agreed upon by each leagues’ player union. In other words, a CBA is a legal contract between the league and its players. These two entities negotiate the terms of employment, wages, hours etc. and set the guidelines to what the league is allowed to do and what the players are obligated not to do. All major sports have approved CBA’s, and most address the same topics of wages, discipline, etc. These agreements are not all uniform, however, different leagues have different regulations.
One of these differences can be seen when discussing conduct outside the workplace. Discipline is addressed differently amongst each league, with each one placing forth different amounts of importance to the subject. When discussing outside legal trouble, the MLS NBA addresses the topic in a page and a half. The NBA addresses the same topic in a single paragraph. This shows different levels of involvement from the league as to the conduct of players outside the workplace. The NBA makes it clear that no team shall enforce punishment on a player simply due to the fact that he has been arrested. Instead, the NBA puts forth 3 forms of criteria in order to determine if a team has the right to discipline him: (1) A Team may impose discipline on a player for the conduct underlying the player’s arrest if it has an independent basis for doing so, (2) nothing herein shall permit a Team to discipline a player for his failure to cooperate with a Team’s investigation of his alleged misconduct if he has a reasonable apprehension of criminal prosecution, and (3) nothing herein shall prevent a Team from precluding a player from participating in Team activities without loss of pay to the extent it otherwise has the right to do so. These set of rules help to not only protect the player but give the team’s front office to properly act in the situation that an arrest arises.
In the MLB, the player is not as protected as he would be under the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. In the MLB, just because a player is arrested, a club can automatically pursue disciplinary action against him. The only protection a player has against his club is if the MLB Commissioner himself does not defer the disciplinary decision to the club. However, the MLB’s CBA doesn’t only address arrests, but any conduct that is, “materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the interests of Baseball”. Thus meaning, if a player participates in any activities not approved by the MLB, they could potentially receive disciplinary actions for doing so. This type of regulation is not limited to baseball however, the MLS follows a similar structure of discipline.
Major League Soccer’s CBA is the longest of the three, with its discipline subsection spanning almost 2 & ½ pages. The MLS discusses a variety of actions the league and its clubs could pursue in the event that a player commits acts off-field that are not approved of by the league. As seen in Section i of the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement, “In the event that the Commissioner or his designee determines that alleged off-field conduct is detrimental to the public image and/or reputation of MLS, the Team and/or the game of soccer, the incident and the discipline to be imposed, if any, shall be considered and decided by the Commissioner or his designee (who may terminate an SPA or impose a fine and/or suspension, with or without pay, or other lesser discipline in lieu of termination)”. This excerpt from the CBA makes it clear that the MLSs policies are similar to that of the MLB. A club/team could pursue disciplinary action if a player jeopardizes the reputation of the club or goes against the interests of the team.
As can be seen by each league's respective Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is clear that each league provides a different emphasis on what a player does off-field/court. In terms of player protection, the NBA delivers that, as players are in essence innocent until proven guilty in a sense. They won’t necessarily be penalized without being convicted of a crime or bad behavior. In terms of a team having ultimate authority, the MLS reigns supreme. Their CBA allows them to discipline players right away if the league finds them to jeopardize the reputation of the club. The middle ground is the MLB, their CBA provides enough protection for the player but also allows teams to enforce punishments if necessary.