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RIP Thomas Roberts

2008 February 19
by Phil Miller

Thomas Roberts, the arbitrator who found MLB teams had colluded in the free agent market in the mid 1980′s (and who was fired twice by MLB), has passed. From the WSJ Law Blog:

Thomas T. Roberts, a prominent arbitrator best known for his mid-1980s ruling that major league baseball club owners had improperly colluded to prevent free-agent players from obtaining richer contracts, died last Wedenesday. He was 84.

Roberts (Loyola University, Loyola Law School) was fired twice by Major League Baseball management for issuing rulings in favor of the players. In 1986, he ruled that teams could not negotiate drug-testing clauses with players individually; they had to deal with the players union under the collective bargaining agreement.

After being reinstated, Roberts issued his most famous ruling in the baseball case widely-known as the “collusion case” in which he found that, following the 1985 season, no teams had sought to sign free agents unless their old clubs had lost interest in them. He termed that “a strong indication of concerted action,” something prohibited by baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. Roberts was fired again by management. But in 1990 his ruling was vindicated when the owners agreed to pay affected players $280 million plus interest to settle the collusion cases.

Via SportsLawBlog.

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