What We’re Reading: January 25

With just a few weeks left before our 2018 Conference, we at SSAC18 are incredibly eager to share all of the great panels and discussions that have been formed over the past few months. One of the topics that we are particularly excited about is “Playing for the Players” – a discussion between players’ union executives, agents, and athletes around their evolving roles and challenges they face in the analytics age. Since many sports fans may not realize how important and complex this aspect of professional sports can be, we put together this summary of the biggest issues in player representation today. 

Player Unions Today & Recent Challenges

The relationship between athletes and sports management has grown to become more relevant and multi-dimensional than ever before. In the past year, social activism, gender equality, and data privacy have notably grabbed headlines and sparked intense debate. In just this month alone, officiating and rule changes are two issues in player advocacy that have come to the forefront.   


Tensions in the NBA have been running high as the relationship between players and officials has grown contentious. While disagreements between players and officials are unavoidable in any sport, the NBA has had a few high-profile incidents over the past months. In one such instance, official Courtney Kirkland and Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston had an altercation that resulted in suspensions for both. Players complain that there is a lack of dialogue and respect from NBA officials, and a meeting between players, player advocates, and officials has been set up for February 2018.

SSAC18 panelist and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts recently addressed the subject: “[The meeting] is shaping up… I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be both spirited and enlightening… I think it’s a useful step.”

Rule Changes

After a November owners meeting in Orlando, Major League Baseball announced that pace of play would be a top priority moving forward. Last year’s average game time of three hours and five minutes was the highest in MLB history. In response, the MLB has proposed two modifications: a “pitch clock” (which begins when a pitcher takes possession of the ball on the dirt area around the rubber and ends as the pitcher either goes into his windup or arrives at the set position) and a limit of one mound visit by a catcher per pitcher, per inning.

On January 19, it was reported that the MLBPA had rejected this proposal. Although the MLB would have the right to implement rule changes based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, SSAC18 speaker and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has consistently said that the MLB prefers to make changes with MLBPA cooperation. The league is hopeful to make a deal, and Manfred is scheduled to meet with MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark next week to discuss.    

For a more detailed and in-depth discussion, make sure to attend “Playing for the Players” at SSAC18. What other topics in player representation and advocacy are particularly relevant? What tactics are used behind-the-scenes to negotiate, market, and advocate for athletes? How will the roles of player advocates evolve as the interest of athletes continue to evolve? Share your thoughts on Twitter and our Facebook page.