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February 28, 2020

During Black History Month, Members of Congress and Professional Athletes Call for All-Star Baseball Player Curt Flood’s Induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: 

Hannah Muldavin (Trone), Hannah.Muldavin@mail.house.gov

Katie Boyd (Blunt), Katie_Boyd@blunt.senate.gov 

Steven Engelhardt (Clay), Steven.Engelhardt@mail.house.gov 

Arthur Bryant (Wagner), Arthur.Bryant@mail.house.gov

Chris Dahl (MLBPA), ChrisD@mlbpa.org 

During Black History Month, Members of Congress and Professional Athletes Call for All-Star Baseball Player Curt Flood’s Induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Flood’s pioneering efforts for workers’ rights in professional sports

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a bipartisan and bicameral coalition of Members of Congress called for All-Star baseball player Curt Flood’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Flood’s courageous challenge to Major League Baseball’s (MLB) reserve system, which helped create free agency within the MLB and transformed professional sports.

Led by Representative David Trone (D-MD), Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Ann Wagner (R-MO), the Members announced that they will send a letter to the Chair of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame urging the induction of Curt Flood. The letter currently has more than 100 signatures.

The effort has been endorsed by the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), and the Major League Soccer Players Association (MLSPA). It has also been endorsed by UNITE HERE, a labor union that represents 300,000 working people across Canada and the United States in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries. 

Also in attendance at the event:

  • Judy Pace Flood, widow of Curt Flood
  • Xavier James, Chief Operating Officer, MLBPA
  • Chris Capuano, former Major League Baseball (MLB) player and Director of Operations, MLBPA
  • Don Fehr, Former Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) Executive Director and current National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) Executive Director
  • Andre Collins, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins) and Executive Director, Professional Athletes Foundation, National Football League Players Association (NFLPA)
  • Dylan Mabin, Cornerback for the Raiders
  • Clarence Nesbitt, General Counsel, National Basketball Players Association (NBPA)
  • Johnny Andris, Staff Counsel, Major League Soccer Players Association (MLSPA)
  • Amir Lowery, former MLS player and current member of Player Relations team (MLSPA)

“Curt Flood changed the game of baseball when he courageously spoke truth to power in the name of what was right,” said Rep. David Trone (D-MD), who organized the efforts behind the Congressional letter. “Flood sacrificed his own career so players after him could have free agency, leaving one of the biggest impacts on the game to this day. It’s about time we all come together to recognize these distinctly American actions and induct Curt Flood into the Hall of Fame.”

“A copy of the letter Curt Flood wrote in 1969 is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and he should be there too,” said Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). “As a lifelong Cardinals fan, I have always admired the talent he brought to the game and his bravery off the field. He deserves to be honored with his rightful place alongside America’s greatest baseball players.” 

“Curt Flood’s courage struck a giant blow for freedom when he stood up to the Reserve Clause and demanded to be treated like a man, instead of a piece of property,” said Rep. Wm. Lacy clay (D-MO). “He was a brilliant center fielder, a perennial All-Star, a two-time World Series Champion…but more than that, he was a symbol of courage who stood up against injustice and changed the game forever. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”

“Retired and current players owe a debt of gratitude to Curt Flood,” said Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO). “His legacy as a Cardinals player, advocate, and leader for the sport is still being felt today, and it is clear he has earned his spot in the Hall of Fame. I am proud to join with Curt’s widow, Judy, and my colleagues Senator Blunt, Congressman Clay and Congressman Trone in honoring a great American ballplayer and urging the Golden Era Committee to nominate and induct Curt Flood into the Hall of Fame. The three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner amazed a generation of Cardinals fans with his talent and athleticism, while also changing the way the game was played and how the players were treated. I hope our effort today will allow him to join other Cardinal greats who have made their mark on America’s pastime.”

“Curt Flood’s historic challenge of the reserve clause a half century ago transcended baseball,” said the Players Associations in a joint statement. “He courageously sacrificed his career to take a stand for the rights of all players in professional sports, bringing the issue of free agency to the forefront of national discussion. His accomplishments on the field and off warrant induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.”

In total, 102 Members of Congress signed the letter addressed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Members include: Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Representatives David Trone (D-MD), David Scott (D-GA), Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Al Green (D-TX), Marcia L Fudge (D-OH), Al Lawson (D-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), James E. Clyburn (D-SC), Bennie G. Thompson D-MS), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Sanford D. Bishop (D-GA), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), André Carson (D-IN), Sean Casten (D-IL), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Colin Allred (D-TX), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Billy Long (R-MO), Greg Stanton (D-AZ), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Val Demings (D-FL), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Sean Maloney (D-NY), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Angie Craig (D-MN), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Blain Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Dan Bishop (R-NC), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Jody Hice (R-GA), Roger Williams (R-TX), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Jim Baird (R-IN), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Jim Hagedorn (R-MN), Ted S. Yoho, DVM (R-FL), Mark Green (R-TN), Robert Wittman (R-VA), Drew Furguson (R-GA), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Dan Meuser (R-PA), Lance Gooden (R-TX), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Michael McCaul (R-TX), John Katko (R-NY), Pete Stauber (R-MN), Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D-DE), Max Rose (D-NY), Michael Doyle (D-PA), Joseph Neguse (D-CO), Brain Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Jeff Van Drew William Keating (D-MA), Don Young (R-AK), WM. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Ann Wagner (R-MO), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Darren Soto (D-FL), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Susie Lee (D-NV), Scott Peters (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), T.J. Cox (D-CA), Susan Wild (D-PA), Donna Shalala (D-FL), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Josh Harder (D-CA), Joseph Morelle (D-NY), Ami Bera (D-CA), Gregory F. Murphy, M.D. (R-NC), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Conor Lamb (D-PA) 

Click here to view the press conference

You can find the text of the letter below.

 

February 27, 2020

Jane Forbes Clark

Chair of the Board

Major League Baseball Hall of Fame

25 Main Street

Cooperstown, NY 13326

Dear Chairwoman Clark,

We write today to urge the Golden Era Committee to consider nominating and inducting Curt Flood into the Baseball Hall of Fame when the Committee meets this December. Mr. Flood was a two-time World Series Champion, three time All Star, and seven-time consecutive Golden Glove Award winner, but his greatest contribution to professional baseball happened off the field. Mr. Flood’s courageous actions made Major League Baseball (MLB) what it is today by paving the way for free agency. There would be no more fitting time to enshrine Mr. Flood into the Hall of Fame than during the 50th anniversary of his courageous court challenge to the reserve system, which helped transform professional sports.

After playing 12 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals as a standout center fielder, Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. Mr. Flood refused to be traded, becoming the first player in MLB history to reject a trade. At the time, players were still bound to a team for life by the so-called “reserve clause.” Simply put, a player was a team’s property. Mr. Flood demanded the Baseball Commissioner declare him a free agent in a letter dated Christmas Eve 1969. He wrote: “After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.”

Commissioner Kuhn denied Mr. Flood’s request, so he filed a lawsuit against the MLB. The case (Flood v. Kuhn) reached the Supreme Court in 1972. In a 5-3 ruling, the Court sided with the MLB and against Mr. Flood. Mr. Flood paid a huge price both professionally and personally for this decision and was effectively black balled from the MLB after seven consecutive Golden Glove seasons. He sacrificed his career so that future players would be afforded more rights and better compensation during their careers. 

Thanks to Mr. Flood’s courageous act to not accept a trade and to the efforts of Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Marvin Miller, the reserve clause ended in December 1975. Mr. Flood and Mr. Miller are directly responsible for the current free agency system that MLB players enjoy today. While Mr. Miller was deservingly inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame for his work on behalf of players and the League recently, Mr. Flood still lacks the same recognition. 

The effects of Mr. Flood’s actions are still felt today. Current MLB superstar Gerrit Cole praised Mr. Flood during a press conference in December 2019 where Cole was celebrating his new $324 million dollar contract with the Yankees: “I want everybody to know, because challenging the reserve clause was one of the first stepping stones to ultimately the system we have today, which I believe brings out the most competitive, you know, genuine competitiveness, that we have in baseball.” 

In 1998, Congress unanimously passed the Curt Flood Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The law overrode part of the 1922 Supreme Court ruling that exempted baseball from antitrust laws that applied to all other sports.

 Mr. Flood’s candidacy is supported by prominent current and former MLB players, seasoned sports writers, and baseball fans around the country. This is why we strongly urge the Golden Era Committee to recognize his unprecedented courage and lasting effect on professional baseball by inducting Curt Flood into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sincerely, 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

After playing 12 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals as a standout center fielder, Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. Mr. Flood refused to be traded, becoming the first player in MLB history to reject a trade. At the time, players were still bound to a team for life by the so-called “reserve clause.” Simply put, a player was a team’s property. Mr. Flood demanded the Baseball Commissioner declare him a free agent on Christmas Eve 1969. Commissioner Kuhn denied Mr. Flood’s request, so he filed a lawsuit against the MLB. The case (Flood v. Kuhn) reached the Supreme Court in 1972. In a 5-3 ruling, the Court sided with the MLB and against Mr. Flood.

Thanks to Mr. Flood’s courageous act to not accept a trade and to the efforts of Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Marvin Miller, the reserve clause eventually ended in December 1975. Mr. Flood and Mr. Miller are directly responsible for the current free agency system that MLB players enjoy today. While Mr. Miller was deservingly elected to the Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2020 for his work on behalf of players and the League recently, Mr. Flood still lacks the same recognition. 

This December, the Golden Era Committee will meet to consider new inductees for the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

 

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