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Sports Law
University of California, Hastings School of Law
Goldstein, Jennifer Mulligan

I. The Governing Bodies
A. Commissioners- Powers and Responsibilities (5-67)
1. Job of Commissioner
a) Overseas game
b) Protects best interest
c) CEO of joint business of member teams
2. Powers of Commissioner
a) Power to discipline
b) Power to decide disputes among owners
c) Power to represent league in collective bargaining negotiations
(1) Hasn’t been given sole power to determine contours of collective bargaining, rather, is agent of the owners
d) Negotiate endorsements for its subsidiary commercial arm that report up to the nonprofit league
e) His Authority is derived from:
(1) Constitution / bylaws à and maybe more appropriately, look at his CONTRACT w/ the league!
3. Legal Scope of Commissioner’s Authority
a) Landis
(1) Teams trading a player were secretly owned by the same owner. Common ownership violates the spirit and intent of baseball, and thus, as a result, the teams had forfeited their rights to the player and the commissioner declared the player a free agent.
(2) Commissioner has almost unlimited discretion in determining whether a certain state of facts creates a situation detrimental to the national game of baseball
b) Legal Scope of Commissioner’s Authority to act in the “best interests of the game”
(1) Finley v. Bowie Kuhn
(a) BACKGROUND: End of Reserve Clause and Free Agency Looming: (and the Turner case later) grew out of a 1976 arbitration decision whose ruling eviscerated the “reserve clause” that had formerly tied baseball players for life to their original team
(i) Instead, gave players the freedom to move to a new team upon expiration of their current Ks
(a) Prospect of FREE AGENCY
(b) Charles Finley’s Solution: SELL stars and invest proceeds in farm system:
(i) Owner of Oakland A’s devised following strategy: sell off his current assets (the veteran stars of his 3 time champs) and invest proceeds in development via the Farm System of future assets – young stars who could not command high salaries through free agency
(c) Facts
(i) A’s owner sold the contract rights of 3 stars
(a) Commissioner disapproved the assignments of the Ks as: “Inconsistent w/ the best interests of baseball, the integrity of the game and the maintenance of public confidence in it”
(d) Holding:
(i) Commissioner has the authority to determine whether any act, transaction or practice is ‘not in the best interests of baseball,’ and upon such determination, to take whatever preventive or remedial action he deems appropriate, whether or not the act, transaction or practice complies with the Major League Rules or involves Moral Turpitude.”
(ii) No selling players for cash
(e) Commissioner’s power includes this power
(f) Court can overturn commissioner decisions only in those instances in which commissioner doesn’t act in good faith and is outside established. Procedure
(1) Turner
(a) Overview:
(i) Deal w/ Commissioner’s authority to discipline OWNERS and EMPLOYEES of member teams.
(ii) Commissioner had broad authority to discipline, except in imposing punitive penalties not enumerated in Article II, §3!
(b) Facts:
(i) Braves owner talked to a free agent before he w

) NO! While commissioner has broad power (“to investigate any act, transaction or practice … not in the best interests … and determine punishment…), but this power was preempted under Article VII (which says that commissioner basically can’t override the constitutions of either Major League or the Basic Agreement b/w the Major Leagues and the MLBPA) by specific langue in the National League Constitution which provided that “no member club may be transferred to a diff. division w/o its consent”
(c) Class Notes:
(i) This case is good to contrast w/ Finley Kuhn b/c courts will defer to commissioner acting under authority of best interests of the game however, once you take it out of daily operational basis and get into issues of corporate governance/legal rights à courts DON’T have the same deference are happier to jim and if they don’t, congress might!
(d) (C): “to determine, after investigation, what preventive, remedial or punitive action is appropriate in the premises, and to take such action either against Major Leagues, Major League Clubs or individuals, as the case may be
(2) Cubs
(a) Moved around decisions without asking
(b) Contrary to express governing decisions
(i) League constitutions thus clearly superseded
Commissioner was violating the scope of his powers