Are Player Endorsements Ever Allowed?

Player Endorsements

Player Endorsements

Player endorsements are a fantastic way for players to acquire additional income and wages.

On the other hand, here are three legitimate concerns with an endorsement:

  • MLB and MiLB players do not want to breach or jeopardize their contract,
  • Players should always be seeking their Club’s consent, and
  • Do not do follow Kim Kardashian’s suggested process.

Thus, lets take a deep dive into these issues.

Player Endorsements for MLB Players

You will see this a few times:  life is so much easier when Players seek approval from their Club and Union before signing an endorsement deal.  Here is why:  fear of breach.

Nobody wants a lawsuit.  As standard contract language, the MLB uniform contract addresses promotions as follows:

Player agrees to cooperate with the Club and participate in any and all reasonable promotional activities of the Club and Major League Baseball, which, in the opinion of the Club, will promote the welfare of the Club or professional baseball, and to observe and comply with all reasonable requirements of the Club respecting conduct and service of its team and its players, at all times whether on or off the field.

In other words, get consent because the “reasonable” standard is left to “the opinion of the Club”.  Also, you can see firsthand where Clubs can indirectly control off the field activities too.

MLB Player Pictures and Public Appearances

Again, as a standard contract clause addressed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, pictures and public appearances are limited because:

..still photo- graphs, motion pictures or television at such times as the Club may designate and agrees that all rights in such pictures shall belong to the Club and may be used by the Club for publicity purposes in any man- ner it desires. The Player further agrees that during the playing season he will not make public appearances, participate in radio or television programs or permit his picture to be taken or write or sponsor newspaper or magazine articles or sponsor commercial products without the written consent of the Club, which shall not be withheld except in the reasonable interests of the Club or professional baseball.

My goodness!  Based on this uniform clause, a Player cannot talk to anybody in the media without getting consent beforehand.  Even more so, this uniform contract clause expressly identifies sponsorships too.

Sometimes, Players try to scrutinize the terms of the contract by suggesting their offseason is fair-game.  Here is the problem:  unless Players have exclusive control of an advertisement distribution process, very few players can control when an advertisement gets placed.  In other words, a commercial filmed in December might air in May, which I believe breaches the above stated clause.

As a result, always always always seek and acquire a Club’s written consent and a higher standard than a short exchange of text messages or email.

Player Endorsements for MiLB Players

For those in the minor league ranks, I believe the uniform agreement imposes a similar standard on those playing in the minors, which states as follows:

Player agrees to serve Club diligently and faithfully, to keep in first-class condition, and to observe and comply with all rules and regulations of Club. 

And:

Player agrees, beginning with the date that this Minor League Uniform Player Contract is executed, to cooperate with Club and to participate in any and all promotional activities of Club which, in the sole opinion of Club, will promote the welfare of Club or of professional baseball

And:

Player agrees, beginning with the date that this Minor League Uniform Player Contract is executed, that current or future photographs, whether still or action, and motion pictures may be taken and any form of broadcasts or telecasts of Player, individually or with others, may be made at such times or places as Club may designate and agrees that all rights therein and all rights to Player’s name, voice, signature, biographical information and likeness shall belong to Club and that they may be used, reproduced, sold, licensed, or otherwise disseminated or published by Club or its licensees, assignees, and/or other designees directly or indirectly in any medium whatsoever for any purpose (including but not limited to in broadcast, in print, on trading cards, posters and other merchandise of any kind, in electronics, in audio, in video or in connection with any media), in any manner and at any time, including after the term of this Minor League Uniform Player Contract, that Club desires.

I agree, this is extremely unfair and applies just as much to third-parties as it does to a player’s business or family business.

Player Endorsement Problems

The whole idea here is to avoid a contract breach.  The second goal is to avoid becoming investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or entities alike.

As you an see, Kim Kardashian’s suggested process appears disastrous.  Assuming a Player acquires consent, all compliance issues should be imposed on the advertiser and distributor.

The lesson learned is the fact disregarding this issue can become financially detrimental.