Blake Snell won’t play for less pay. The Tampa Bay ace said in an interview on his Twitch channel that it’s not worth it for him to play this season at reduced salary due to the health risk of coronavirus.
“Y’all gotta understand, man, for me to go — for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof.”
Earlier this week, MLB, faced with the prospect of starting a season without fans in the seats (which means no gate, parking or concession revenue), sent a proposal offering a 50-50 revenue split with the players. But the players had already agreed to a prorated portion of their salaries in March. Also overlooked is that agreement meant the players, who received some of their salary up front, took the chance of the season being totally canceled and not receiving any more money.
On Tuesday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted that the owners have basically already said they won’t hold their end of that bargain.
“MLB’s position is that it will lose more money if they play games without fans and pay prorated salaries than if they don’t play at all. Thus, owners are saying they will not pay prorated salaries.”
The MLBPA has steadfastly refused revenue-sharing plans in the past as they regard such measures as a cap on earnings. It’s a line in the sand that led to the work stoppage of 1994-95, and it’s clear that the owners are trying to use the global crisis as an excuse to sneak one by the public, even if the players won’t fall for it. Traditionally, when owners cry poverty, the players have asked them to open up their books to prove they’re losing money, a request the owners have rejected.
In past labor disputes, owners — and the commissioner, don’t forget, Rob Manfred works for the owners — have been able to paint the players as greedy in the war of public opinion. But Snell’s comments indicate that the current issue should not be viewed as a beef between billionaire owners and millionaire players, but closer to a battle of workers being asked to risk their health in order to get paid. Employees at Amazon and Walmart have staged work stoppages to protest working conditions during the pandemic. Athletes, given the luxury of not having to starve or miss rent payments, seem less incentivized to risk their long-term safety than most.
On Tuesday, Premier League player Danny Rose said, “I don’t give a fuck about the nation’s morale, people’s lives are at risk.”
Athletes on this side of the Atlantic, like Snell, are beginning to say the same. For MLB players, they’ve already made salary concessions and are taking all the health risks.
“No, I gotta get my money,” said Snell. “I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me. Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?”
“Bro, I’m risking my life,” said Snell, who was slated to make $7M this season (prorated to $3.5M, or less, if the owners’ plan of an 82-game season wins out). “What do you mean it should not be a thing? It should 100 percent be a thing. If I’m gonna play, I should be getting the money I signed to be getting paid. I should not be getting half of what I’m getting paid because the season’s cut in half, on top of a 33 percent cut of the half that’s already there — so I’m really getting, like, 25 percent.”
Snell texted the Tampa Bay Times, clarifying his position.
“I mean honestly it’s just scary to risk my life to get COVID-19 as well as not knowing and spreading it to the others,’’ the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner texted to the Times. “I just want everyone to be healthy and get back to our normal lives cause I know I miss mine!”