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The Big Leagues Go to WashingtonCongress and Sports Antitrust, 1951-1989$
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David George Surdam

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039140

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039140.001.0001

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Player Rights 1951 and 1957

Player Rights 1951 and 1957

(p.52) 4 Player Rights 1951 and 1957
The Big Leagues Go to Washington

David George Surdam

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines one of the most contentious issues in professional sports leagues that were tackled at the Congressional hearings in 1951 and 1957: player rights. The reserve clause and the player draft allowed owners to minimize competition for players and therefore to have salary-setting power over their players, giving them discretion in how much they paid them. Owners and their commissioners employed novel arguments supporting the necessity of having the reserve clause. This chapter first provides an overview of the sorry state of player salaries in professional team sports before considering the owners' explicit use of the reserve clause and how players began challenging it. It concludes with a discussion of Congress's inquiry into player rights, the challenges to the player draft, the formation of players' associations, the outcome of the hearings, and the inquiry's impact on owner-player relations.

Keywords:   professional sports leagues, Congressional hearings, player rights, reserve clause, player draft, player salaries, professional team sports, Congress, players' associations

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