21 September 2021 - Article
This article was initially published by LawInSport on September 28, 2018 and is co-authored by Michael Rueda.
Generally, major U.S. sports leagues and their clubs contract with athletes regarding compliance by the athletes with television, radio, newspaper and other media requests. Collective bargaining agreements between players associations and leagues generally provide that such activities must be reasonable and also provide mechanisms through which players and the league and/or clubs can address grievances resulting therefrom.
For example, each Major League Soccer (MLS) player signs the same Standard Player Agreement (SPA) with MLS. The SPA is subject to the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement4 (the CBA) between MLS and the Major League Soccer Players Union (the MLSPU). The SPA and the CBA collectively set forth the requirements of a player to provide media, promotional and commercial appearances, among other things. Generally, the terms of the SPA and the CBA are non-negotiable as they were negotiated by the MLSPU on behalf of all MLS players. The current CBA took effect on February 1, 2015 and expires on January 31, 2020.
The current CBA requires that MLS players cooperate with reasonable requests of television, radio, newspaper, magazine and other news media representatives and cooperate with MLS and the player's team, separately and together, to be available for and participate in such news media photo sessions and interviews and other media appearances as may be reasonably be required.
If a player decides not to participate in a media session without breaching the SPA and the CBA, the player would likely have to claim that the requests for media appearances were unreasonable. To do so the MLSPU would likely initiate a grievance procedure and provide notice to MLS that a provision of the CBA was violated. MLS would have to respond to the claim. If the grievance is not resolved between the parties, the grievance is referred to a grievance committee, consisting of a representative of MLS and a representative of the MLSPU. If the grievance committee fails to resolve the grievance, the parties could then elect to arbitrate the grievance.
However, if a player is not claiming that the requests for media appearances are unreasonable and decides to just not participate in, or fails to report to, a media appearance, the CBA permits MLS to impose a fine on the player. The amount of the fine varies depending on the player's base salary, with players that earn more being subject to a higher fine. Players can be disciplined for each recurring incident thereafter and additional infractions would be evaluated on an incident by incident basis and be subject to increased fines up to and including suspensions without pay and/or termination.
Moreover, a player's failure to report to media appearances constitutes a breach of the SPA. A player's breach of the SPA in this manner grants MLS the right to utilize certain expedited arbitration mechanisms provided in the SPA. The decision of the arbitrator is final and binding and may be immediately entered as a judgment in any court of competent jurisdiction and/or communicated to FIFA. The judgment may also be submitted to any court having jurisdiction for the purpose of obtaining the equitable relief deemed appropriate, including but not limited to a decree enjoining the player from any further breach of the SPA.