CURT FLOOD-THE MAN-THE BASEBALL PLAYER-FREE AGENCY
Posted on Jun 27 2010 at 11:55:44 AM in Other Sports
NBA Free Agent Summit? What in the world is THAT all about? Rest easy Curt Flood, take a deep breath Jerry West, nothing to worry about Joe Montana. Hopefully Jim Brown will march in and clearer heads will prevail. If I hear that Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson are circling like vultures? Than it may be time to pray that Gene Upshaw be brought out of the grave and revived. For the past week I have been hearing and reading about an “up coming meeting of the minds in the NBA of their Free Agents/Hired Guns.. . . .Dwayne Wade, Joe Smith, Chris Bosch and Lebron (King Baby) James”. If I have this right, these four players (all free agents) are going to collectively meet, as THEY put it “see what or where they should sell their services for the better-meant of basketball”. Are these guys mis-guided, mis-directed or so self-absorbed they haven’t got a clue? Hence the title of this piece Curt Flood and what follows. First is some history for us all on Curt Flood (part taken from a great body of work, by The Baseball Reliquary Inc.) copy and pasted here on SojournSports.
Curt Flood challenged the baseball community with-in the terms of employment on what now is called “free agency”, the gift of practicing ones craft based on his or hers individual interests. What follows is not my work and I take no credit for writing Curt’s history:
Curt Flood was as crucial to the economic rights of ballplayers as Jackie Robinson was to breaking the color barrier. A three-time All-Star and seven-time winner of the Gold Glove for his defensive prowess in center field, Flood hit more than .300 six times during a 15-year major league career that began in 1956. Twelve of those seasons were spent wearing the uniform of the St. Louis Cardinals. After the 1969 season, the Cardinals attempted to trade Flood, then 31 years of age, to the Philadelphia Phillies, which set in motion his historic challenge of baseball’s infamous “reserve clause.” The reserve clause was that part of the standard player’s contract which bound the player, one year at a time, in perpetuity to the club owning his contract. Flood had no interest in moving to Philadelphia, a city he had always viewed as racist (“the nation’s northernmost southern city”), but more importantly, he objected to being treated as a piece of property and to the restriction of freedom embedded in the reserve clause.
Flood was fully aware of the social relevance of his rebellion against the baseball establishment. Years later, he explained, “I guess you really have to understand who that person, who that Curt Flood was. I’m a child of the sixties, I’m a man of the sixties. During that period of time this country was coming apart at the seams. We were in Southeast Asia. Good men were dying for America and for the Constitution. In the southern part of the United States we were marching for civil rights and Dr. King had been assassinated, and we lost the Kennedys. And to think that merely because I was a professional baseball player, I could ignore what was going on outside the walls of Busch Stadium was truly hypocrisy and now I found that all of those rights that these great Americans were dying for, I didn’t have in my own profession.”
With the backing of the Players Association and with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg arguing on his behalf, Flood pursued the case known as Flood v. Kuhn (Commissioner Bowie Kuhn) from January 1970 to June 1972 at district, circuit, and Supreme Court levels. Although the Supreme Court ultimately ruled against Flood, upholding baseball’s exemption from antitrust statutes, the case set the stage for the 1975 Messersmith-McNally rulings and the advent of free agency.
The financial and emotional costs to Flood as a result of his unprecedented challenge of the reserve clause were enormous. Flood’s major league career (his 1970 salary would have been $100,000) effectively ended with his legal action, and he traveled to Europe, spending much of his time there painting and writing, attempting to deal with the pain and frustration of being away from the game he loved. In 1970, prior to the Supreme Court decision, Flood published his autobiography, The Way It Is, a riveting book which forcefully outlined his moral and legal objections to baseball’s reserve system. Flood’s impassioned literary account of his life is now considered an essential text in the history of the baseball labor movement.
It doesn’t take long after reading the story above of Curt Flood to figure out he was one of the first to pay a steep price to allow today’s professional athlete to reap the huge salaries they demand in today’s markets. Curt set the table for these four to pillage to system and they have the nerve to “have a summit to consider what they collectively think should happen”? THAT is exactly what the pioneers fought against, any body of business binding together to make decisions for the whole! Collusion reversed to get the best of the individual parties, in this case NBA ownership, no matter if they have the money is NOT the issue at hand. It has the markings of extortion and smells like the inmates may be running the asylum.
When it comes right down to it? I am saddened by these four and their attempts to manipulate the system, but in the end I am not too worried about the out-come. It will be like four pirates sitting down and trying to figure how to divide up the treasure/plunder while keeping one hand on their individual cutlass’s. None of them will be willing to share evenly and at the first glimpse of not getting their fair share? All it will take is just one not feeling he is getting what the others are getting and they will be fleeing to their separate ships, hoisting their Jolly Rodgers, turning broadside to each other “just in case”. When King Baby James signs with the Knicks, the fight is on and they will be selling their individual talents to the highest bidder! Each pointing the finger at the other for breaking rank, file and scattering to the highest point on Treasure Island. AGAIN reaping the benefits of the labor of folks like Curt Flood.