If recent political and FTX-related financial events tell us anything, it is that baseball interests such as MLB do best when they stick to their own game.
At least twice in recent days, MLB has been embarrassed by the offshoots of its ill-advised moves into the realms of politics and finance.
In one case, the damage is almost certain to be both financially significant and quantifiable. That of course is a reference to the revelations that Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of cryptocurrency giant FTX, has filed for bankruptcy.
For the past year and a half, MLB umpires have worn a patch on their uniforms touting FTX following the signing of an agreement in January of 2021 that was to pay the umpires an estimated $135 million over five years.
In the wake of the bankruptcy declaration, MLB officials said Thursday they had terminated the deal, a move that on paper at least will have as much as a $94.5 million implication for the game and its arbiters.
Of course, if FTX really was as broke as its bankruptcy filing indicated, the umps were never likely to see anything near that much money anyway.
Among matters left in the lurch is the future status of various joint MLB/FTX promotions, including a world-wide “FTX Home Run Derby” promotion that began this year. When the tour was announced this past summer, company and baseball officials described it as a “high-energy live event experience and brand opportunity through in-person engagement…” The first iteration concluded last month, and presumably any plans for a second such event will be on hold until such time, if any, as a new sponsor is identified.
The collapse of FTX followed by only a few days the conduct of the 2022 off-year national elections, a side focus of which was the voter turnout in Georgia. That state, you will recall, was the target of a political boycott (joined by MLB) following passage of a new voter registration law that opponents including President Biden labeled as “Jim Crow 2.0” for what they saw as voter suppression efforts.
Among the steps taken by MLB in response to the law’s passage was the pulling of the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta’s Truist Park, where it had been scheduled to be held last July. Instead, the game was moved to Denver.
MLB’s problem is that the allegations of voter suppression on which the relocation was founded turned out to be baseless. Rather than suppress turnout, the new law (in effect for the first time this past week) saw a record voter participation for an off-year election in the state. Although counting is not yet complete, when it is, officials project that close to 4 million Georgians will have cast ballots.
The previous record for an off-year election in the state was 3.94 million.
At the time the move was made, the MLB Player’s Alliance issued a statement making it clear that it found the new law discriminatory. “We want to make our voice heard loud and clear in our opposition (to the law)” it said, charging that it “not only disproportionately disenfranchises the Black community but also paves the way for other states to pass similarly harmful laws.”
Legal repudiation of the Players and MLB’s contention that the law was sufficiently discriminatory to justify moving the All-Star Game began more than a year ago. In June of 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of a new Texas voting procedures law that contained many of the same measures found objectionable by MLB and he players in the Georgia law. In its decision, the Supreme Court found nothing in the Texas law that violated Constitutional guarantees of the right to ballot access.
So that’s back-to-back major hits delivered to the game’s credibility in its recent ventures into the political and financial spheres. Moving forward, Commissioner Rob Manfred and the rest of the game’s upper management may want to consider that they do best when they stick to what they know best … baseball.