Several weeks ago, Aware Gaming sold its spot in MLG's Pro League Season 2 to TCM Gaming. Effectively, this left half of Aware's roster without organizations to compete with in Season 2. Unfortunately, judging by the tweets of players like TJHaly and Huke, Aware's players may not have known about the sale of the pro league spot until it happened.
Aware selling its spot in Season 2 highlights the fact that players need to have protective measures built into their contracts. Nothing can ensure that a team won’t sell their league spot, but measures can be taken to protect players (at the contract negotiation stage) should these events ever occur. Obviously different players will have different leverage to seek any protections, and teams may be resistant to offering any protections, but protective measures are worth exploring.
Building protections into contracts
Aware has every right to sell its league spot. However, players have every right to request provisions in their contract that they be compensated should such an event occur, especially within defined windows of time prior to the season. For instance, if the team sells the league spot within X days/weeks of the start of the season, then a defined amount of money must be paid to the player. As most teams aren't flush with cash, this would act as a disincentive for teams to sell their season spots. However, teams could push back against this (especially the less established teams) so that they would have the freedom to do as they please with their season spot. Realistically, a team that is 100% secure about participating in the season has no reason not to include such a provision if requested, since they know the triggering event (the sale of the spot) is not going to occur. Its important to note that such a provision does not necessarily have to require money, but can instead require specific goods.
One of the simplest but significant provisions which should DEFINITELY be negotiated are escape clauses. (I talked about escape clauses here).Those clauses allow the player to cancel the remainder of the contract should defined situations arise. For instance, such a clause can allow a player to cancel his contract with a team should the team sell their league spot. Other triggering events can include nonpayment, benching for a portion of time, etc. Using the example of such a clause that is triggered by the sale of a league spot, teams may be resistant to implementing such a clause in a player’s contract. The team’s goal would be to retain the players so that they can still have something to draw viewership, despite not competing in the league. However, the player, who obviously would want to join a new team, may have a stronger position here. Not wanting to agree to such a provision conditioned upon selling a league spot shows uncertainty, which can lead to a great deal of bad PR for the team. The last thing the team wants is bad PR because it hurts its viewership and could keep talented players from joining. Importantly, escape clauses are time sensitive. Once a triggering event occurs, the player would have a defined window by which to exercise the clause and cancel the contract. If that window is missed, the player can’t cancel the contract without breaching it.
These are only two brief examples of how players can protect themselves in their team contracts. Players should always seek to incorporate protections into all of their contracts, especially their team contracts. It is not the team’s responsibility to protect a player’s rights, and even if a union were to exist, it is the responsibility of the player to seek rights beyond what a union can guarantee. Like pro athletes, players should protect themselves through their contracts, even if that means bringing in someone else to help them do so.
TL/DR- Players should seek protections in their team contracts. Here are two examples.
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