MLB Continues Attempts To Justify Push For Integrity Fees

MLB Continues Attempts To Justify Push For Integrity Fees

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made quite a few headlines this week during a slew of All-Star Game related media appearances. While the game itself and the Home Run Derby were both grand spectacles that satisfied fans around the country, Manfred managed to generate some controversy.

He’s received some negative backlash from the national sports press for claiming on the Dan Patrick Show that Los Angeles Angels center fielder and perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout needed to market himself more to receive more publicity as MLB’s best player.

Manfred Still Wants A Cut For Leagues

But while the commissioner was quick to absolve responsibility on MLB’s part for marketing its biggest star, he also doubled down on requests for “integrity fees” to be included in sports betting legislation as well as conditions that gave MLB and other sports leagues the exclusive rights to protect integrity.

Manfred has long been at the forefront of the push by American sports leagues to receive a cut of legalized sports betting operators’ revenue for purposes of “protecting the integrity of their product”. MLB claims, without any real legal precedent, to have intellectual property rights over its games and also demands exclusive data rights in providing them for sports betting purposes.

He told the National Press Club that MLB would “never delegate responsibility for those integrity issues” and that the league is the most apt defender of its own integrity and that “no one is more motivated than the commissioner’s office in baseball to make sure that there is no threat to the integrity of our sport.”

Exclusive Right To Defend Integrity?

Manfred even took things a step further when speaking to Patrick claiming that the federal and state governments needed to step in and grant MLB protection over their exclusive right to protect itself against dishonest wagering practices.

“We need laws — whether they’re state laws, federal laws, whatever — that allow us to protect the integrity of our sport. That’s our job. We’re not going to delegate it to some regulator in New Jersey or whatever, with all due respect. We care more about it. It’s what we’re about.”

Both Manfred and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver have made known that they prefer a consistent federal framework rather than leaving gambling up to state governments. Silver said as much last week in a press conference.

“We were asked our view on that legislation — it wasn’t something we were promoting. My preference all along has been to have consistent federal framework, but to the extent states were asking us our opinion, we were offering it.”

Standing in the way of that logic, however, is the May 14 Supreme Court ruling that struck down PASPA, the 1992 federal ban on sports betting, and allowed states to decide for themselves whether they would allow sports betting.

League’s “Pristine” Image Must Be Maintained

Demands aside, Manfred is generally positive about the impact sports betting will have on the sports of baseball at large. He championed its impending impact on “fan engagement” which is the main aspect that interests him, aside from, of course, the potential cut MLB could receive off the top from operator revenue.

“People are more interested in the sport, they consume more of the sport. You want to take advantage of that opportunity without letting gaming become too intrusive. Gaming can go over the top. You kind of saw it in the DraftKings/FanDuel wars, right? That’s an example of it. We want to find that sweet spot where fans consume more of our game without the gaming becoming overwhelming.”

Calling to mind the pervasiveness of gambling and sports betting that exists in European soccer, Manfred said he wants baseball to maintain its “pristine image.” Whether or not that characteristic of the league’s current image would be considered accurate by fans is unclear.

It doesn’t take a thorough investigation to realize MLB certainly hasn’t had the best historical track record dealing with steroids and gambling. Just ask Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson.

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