The fight for paying minor league athletes more than their current average salary continues to be an ongoing battle. The argument for increased pay doesn’t stop at a single sport or gender — for female athletes it spills over to professional sports like Tennis, the Olympics and the Women’s National Basketball Association. Action plans are still needed to improve the pay for these athletes as the athletes themselves are being commodified through marketing and more importantly, as products.
Most recently the Toronto Blue Jays took a step forward by increasing pay for their minor league players’ across the board, by an increase of more than 50 per cent. Players playing Single-A currently make about $1,100 to $1,500 monthly and Triple-A players average about $2,150 to $2,400 a month, while in 2017 the average monthly salary for an American was close to $4,000.
The Blue Jays taking this action comes almost a year after the ‘Save America’s Pastime Act’ was put in place by the US Congress. This Act denies overtime pay for minor league baseball players so their salaries stay under the minimum wage. Some people consider baseball players to be seasonal workers, which excludes them from the USA’s Fair Labor Standards Act.
Back in November, Brock University Labour Studies professor Simon Black wrote a piece for The Star stating an opinion that Ontario Hockey League players should be paid. The OHL such as the NCAA makes a lot of money, but none of the athletes are protected by labour laws and are not compensated fairly. Black mentions that the NCAA uses the term “student athlete” to avoid paying the athletes because they receive scholarships, specifically in the major sports like football and basketball. Basically this keeps the athletes from being considered as employees.
OHL players on the other hand receive some payment, but it’s nowhere near a fair wage — roughly $500 per month. These players can also receive post-secondary scholarships, but using scholarships as value in comparison to fair living or just being able to buy food isn’t fair. There’s a lack of protection for these athletes as they are the products that make these leagues their money.
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer and Hockey teams’ have held out from playing to receive better and equal pay in comparison to their male counterparts. With the American soccer team leading the way National teams from other countries and even WNBA players have reached out for advice to improve their own situations.
It’s a step in the right direction with what the Blue Jays are doing with the increased pay. It’s now on the other 29 MLB teams to follow. For minor league teams and organization that aren’t operated by professional organizations, there needs to be a serious conversation about pay. A $180 million lawsuit was filed against the Canadian Hockey League in 2014 on behalf of current and former players, but that hasn’t forced any changes. For women’s sports, there’s even more disparity and lack of fairness, which the female athletes themselves have taken charge in changing, but still deserves more support.
Sport organizations have been taking advantage of its athletes for far too long, using labour laws, scholarships and other compensation methods as excuses to not pay the athletes. With public knowledge that these leagues and organizations are bringing in hefty profits, it’s time to force their hands to do right for the athletes that are the reason behind the profit.