UPDATED 6/15, 5:11 p.m. ET: Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred expressed to ESPN that he is "not confident" that the league will be back for the 2020 season. "I'm not confident. I think there's real risk; and as long as there's no dialogue, that real risk is gonna continue," Manfred told Mike Greenberg on ESPN's upcoming special "The Return of Sports."
"I had been hopeful that once we got to common ground on the idea that we were gonna pay the players full prorated salary, that we would get some cooperation in terms of proceeding under the agreement that we negotiated with the MLBPA on March 26th," Manfred said. "Unfortunately, over the weekend, while Tony Clark was declaring his desire to get back to work, the union's top lawyer was out telling reporters, players and eventually getting back to owners that as soon as we issued a schedule - as they requested - they intended to file a grievance claiming they were entitled to an additional billion dollars. Obviously, that sort of bad-faith tactic makes it extremely difficult to move forward in these circumstances."
"The Return of Sports," which will feature interviews with six sports commissioners talking about the return of their leagues amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to air on ESPN Monday at 9 p.m. ET.
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The Major League Baseball Players Association remains at odds with the league over what will become of the 2020 season, ESPN reports.
After rejecting the league’s latest proposal, the MLBPA released a statement Saturday through their executive director Tony Clark. "It unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile. It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where," the statement concludes.
In March, the MLB and the Players Association agreed upon a number of potential issues, if they were to arise in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them stipulated that the salaries of the players would be prorated based on the length of the season.
While both sides have gone back-and-forth about the exact number of games that should be played this season, a major point of contention lies in the league’s proposal that the players take another pay cut from their prorated deals to compensate for the absence of fans in the stands.
The MLB argues that their March agreement didn’t take into account the possibility of no fans at games, and therefore, should be renegotiated.
ESPN reports that there’s an expectation that even if the MLB were to release a schedule, the Players Association would file a grievance, claiming the league failed to live up to their agreement to "play as many games as possible."
In the midst of their dispute over compensation, it was announced Saturday that the MLB reached a new billion-dollar deal with Turner Sports to cover postseason games, as well as some regular season.
The MLBPA statement released earlier today made reference to the Turner Sports deal, claiming they requested information about their agreement "weeks ago," but it was never provided.
ESPN will air SportsCenter Special: The Return of Sports on Monday featuring commissioners from the major U.S. sports leagues. The panel will discuss the health and safety concerns that come with a return to play, the prospect of playing games without fans in attendance, and the economic impact that will come from COVID-19.