Sunday, June 7, 2009

NBA Age Minimum May Face Congressional Scrutiny

The Clarett decision discussed this post may be old news, but age minimums in pro sports were front and center again last week. Congressman Steve Cohen, D- Tennessee, lambasted the NBA’s age restrictions. (NYT reg. required)

“It’s a vestige of slavery,” Cohen said Wednesday in a phone interview, noting that most of the players affected by the rule are African-American. “Not like the slavery of 150 years ago, but it’s a restraint on a person’s freedoms and liberties.”

Cohen also invoked the tiresome analogy that an 18 year old can serve his country but cannot . . . blah, blah, blah.

Cohen may be grandstanding, but he indicated his office is exploring the legalities of the rule, and that hearings before the House’s Judiciary Committee and legislative proposals are possible. If he follows through, this is commendable.

NBA Commissioner David Stern responded quickly in a press conference prior game one of the NBA Finals on Thursday. (NYT reg. required). Stern emphasized that the rule is simply a business decision. Doubtless, it is good business –perhaps not on par with some of J.D. Rockefeller’s sound “business decisions” allowing him monopolize the oil industry, or the reserve system that served the business interests of sports very well for many years. It is a good business move for the NBA nonetheless, as they may temporarily forgo a little talent, but are able to pass on a fair amount of labor market risk to the NCAA or Europeam leagues. In the match of inappropriate analogies, “Thomas Jefferson” Stern does manage a one-up on the Congressman when he equates the NBA rule to the Congressional age minimum of 25.

1 comment:

  1. We have, of course, a history of age-related restrictions on employment. These are generally based on the dangers of the occupation in question. And I can, oddly enough, see a case for age restrictions in professional sports.

    Players who become professionals at very young ages are less likely to be emotionally (or, for that matter, physically) mature, and the stresses placed on them by the non-playing demands of professional sports (travel; exposure to risks and temptations, perhaps largelybut not exclusively sexual, etc.) will almost certainly be greater for younger players.

    This may be one reason that very young professional tennis players tend to have family members (most often parents) who travel with them), a solution that is likely to be less suitale for baseball, basketball, or football.

    All of this, however, should be a question of public policy, not actions by individual sports,

    I'd be interested in seeing some research on how soccer players signed at very young ages have fared.