13 Disp. Resol. Mag. 14 (2006-2007)
How Arbitration Has Enhanced the Sports World

handle is hein.journals/disput13 and id is 100 raw text is: How Arbitration Has Enhanced

tion now plays a major role
in professional sports, more
than in any other business and labor
setting . Forty years ago, this was not
the case. When Richard Nixon was
elected president in 1968, the neutral
arbitration schemes present in many
labor situations were unheard of in
the four major sports. Since then, in
our personal view, neutral arbitration
has transformed and dramatically en-
hanced the sports world.
Many fans, though, believe that
arbitration has worsened the sports en-
vironment, contributing to what they
perceive as growing player disloyalty
and soaring ticket prices. For example,
Red Sox fans felt quite upset when,
soon after leading their team in 2004
to its first World Series championship
since 1918, two star players, Pedro
Martinez and Johnny Damon, both
rejected the team's offers to a neutral
appraisal of their value and instead ex-
ercised their free agent right to move
south to New York. Martinez joined
the Mets and Damon the Yankees,
both in pursuit of salaries around $15
million apiece, much higher than the
Red Sox were willing to offer them,
despite the Red Sox having by far the
highest ticket prices in baseball. Red
Sox seats now average nearly $50, 40
percent higher than the Yankees' and
Paul Weiler is the Henry 1. Friendly
Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law
School in Cambridge, Mass. He can be
reached at pweiler@law harvard edu.
Gary Roberts is the deputy dean and
Sumter Davis Marks Professor of Law at Tulane
Law School in New Orleans, and in July will
become the dean of Indiana University School
of Law in Indianapolis. He can be reached at
groberts@law. tulane.edu.
Both have written and worked extensively
on sports law.

Mets' averages of around $35.
At the time of the Red Sox' pre-
vious World Series victory, in 1918,
their star pitcher was paid well un-
der $1,000 a season and the average
Fenway ticket price was around $3.
The team owner, told by the woman
he was having an affair with that she
needed money to finance her forth-
coming Broadway hit No No Nanette,
coupled with the increased salary
demands and off-the-field behavior
of the team's pitching star, decided
to sell that star to a team then known
as the Highlanders for $250,000. That
sale both transformed the team, which
renamed itself the Yankees, and the
career of the player sold, George Her-
man Babe Ruth. In New York, he
turned himself into an everyday player
and prolific home run hitter. Indeed,
in New York in 1920, the Babe hit 54
home runs, launching the modern of-
fensive era in baseball and becoming
the sport's greatest icon.
What Ruth was to home runs,
Martinez was to dominant pitching at
the turn of the new century. In 2000,
Martinez, in a Red Sox uniform, won
his second straight Cy Young Award as
the league's top pitcher while posting
the best single-season earned run av-

erage in the American League in more
than three decades. Ruth helped the
Yankees become the most dominant
team  in baseball, while Martinez
sparked the Red Sox renaissance, be-
coming one of baseball's highest-paid
pitchers. But those two former Red
Sox stars, Ruth and Martinez, reaped
vastly different monetary rewards
from their respective moves to New
That difference was produced,
at least in part, by labor arbitration.
Indeed, a Harvard Law School pro-
fessor and avid Red Sox fan, Felix
Frankfurter, who was appalled by the
sale that resulted in Boston's Curse
of the Bambino, years later helped
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
draft a new federal National Labor
Relations Act. Then, as Roosevelt's
advisor, he helped persuade the Su-
preme Court to make its legendary
switch in time that saved nine in
order to uphold the constitutionality
of the NLRA, after which he himself
was later appointed to the Supreme
Court by Roosevelt.
The subsequent and quite pro-
labor union interpretations of the
NLRA by Frankfurter and his col-
leagues on the Supreme Court quickly
inspired Hollywood actors to elect a
liberal Democrat actor, Ronald Rea-
gan, as the leader of the Screen Actors
Guild. In 1961, Reagan took the actors
out on the longest-ever Hollywood
strike, producing the guild's equitable
settlement, especially for bit players,
before embarking on his new profes-
sional career as a politician. In 1980,
Reagan was elected as our 40th presi-
dent and became better known for his
conservatism and his breaking of the
Air Traffic Controller's union. But
the earlier Reagan success as a union-
ist inspired players such as Mickey
Mantle, paid $100,000 by his Yankees
in 1961, to fully commit to both labor
unionism and then salary arbitration
for themselves. In fact, Dick Moss,
a star Harvard Law School student of


14     SPRING  2007

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