The Wide World of Sports Is Getting Wider: A Look at Drafting Foreign Players into U.S. Professional Sports

By Morrow, Heather E. | Houston Journal of International Law, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

The Wide World of Sports Is Getting Wider: A Look at Drafting Foreign Players into U.S. Professional Sports


Morrow, Heather E., Houston Journal of International Law


  I. INTRODUCTION

 II. THE RULES OF THE GAME

       A. Immigration Laws Affecting Foreign Athletes
          1. The Current 0 Visa
          2. The Current P Visa
          3. Effect of the Current Legislation
          4. Practical Application to Foreign Athletes
       B. Collective Bargaining
          1. MLB Draft and Current CBA
          2. NBA Draft and Current CBA
       C. Antitrust Jurisprudence in Professional Sports
          1. Major League Baseball's Antitrust Exemption
          2. Effects of Antitrust Law on the NBA

III. A GLOBAL PLAYING FIELD

       A. Emergence of Baseball as an International Sport
          1. International Awareness in MLB
          2. Other International Issues

       B. The NBA and Global Basketball
          1. Introduction of International Players
          2. FIBA--Global Basketball Governing Body

 IV. INSTANT REPLAY--RECENT BIG PLAYS

       A. MLB Players and Owners Avoid Strike
       B. Houston Rockets Draft China's Yao Ming as the Number One Pick

  V. POST-GAME WRAP-UP: COMPARING MLB AND THE NBA
       A. Global Draft is Necessary
       B. Baseball Should Learn From Basketball

VI. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Our world is getting smaller with each passing year. Advances in science, technology, and industry have bridged geographical gaps between nations. Music, art, and education foster common understanding between vastly different societies. Working toward ideals of equality and freedom will continue to unite politically disparate communities. More and more, citizens of the world are opening their eyes to see that people who seem to live a lifetime away are really not that different after all. That which binds a community together also connects those around the world.

This global connection is becoming more apparent in the world of professional sports. Over the past few decades, American sports fans have seen a dramatic increase in the number of international players in arenas, stadiums, and ballparks throughout the United States. (1) Some fans undoubtedly disapprove of such a "foreign invasion" of "American" pastimes, while others welcome the new challenges, perspectives, and competition that the international community can bring to American games.

The changing faces of American sports heroes have not gone unnoticed by those in the sports business. Perhaps players, in particular, feel that their job security and positions in the limelight are threatened by the presence of foreign talent. If so, what can players do about it? Should they do anything about it? Is it right or wrong for sports management to seek talent from outside the United States? Does bringing in outside talent have a detrimental or beneficial effect on American sports? Can players and owners reach amicable solutions to the inherent tensions that these questions raise?

This comment does not attempt to answer all of these questions. Instead, it will focus on the impact of bringing foreign players into the United States via professional sports drafting systems within the professional sports of baseball and basketball. Part II provides a legal backdrop from which to view the drafting of foreign players. First, it explains the immigration laws that allow international athletes to play in the United States. It then explains the mechanisms through which players can negotiate with and challenge management on issues inherent in drafting systems: collective bargaining and antitrust law.

Part III of this comment closely examines the ways in which American baseball and basketball have grown into global, rather than American, pastimes. Part IV focuses on two recent events that have brought the issue of foreign players and the draft to the forefront of the sports world. First, America's baseball players agreed during the summer of 2002 to implement a worldwide draft system in Major League Baseball (MLB). Second, Chinese player Yao Ming was the number one draft pick in the National Basketball Association (NBA) starting in the 2002-03 basketball season. …

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