Are the New York Yankees powerful enough to squash (or buyout) the First Amendment?


This ESPN story sounds like it was yanked from one of those New York Yankee-themed Seinfeld episodes. Ripped over the new Joe Torre book, which allegedly characterizes general manager Brian Cashman as a backstabber, the Yanks are reportedly trying to put “non-disparaging” clauses in manager and coaches’ contracts to prevent future tell-all books from conquering Amazon.

Now, making employees sign agreements not to badmouth their companies is standard procedure when offering severance packages, but those employees willingly sell their First Amendment rights. Signing nondisclosure agreements to protect a company’s intellectual capital is also pretty commonplace.

But can a company enforce language in a contract stripping employees the right to shoot their mouths off with no severance package attached? Any lawyers out there who can shed some light on this?

Before I ramble on any further, I should admit that I am prone to find symbolism and universal meaning in the baseball world where it likely doesn’t exist.

Middle East ceasefire negotiations remind me of Manny Ramirez free agent talk. Jason Varitek’s job situation makes me think of Joe Sixpack’s job security. And when Joe Torre was first fired from the Yankees, I was outraged how a loyal organization man with stellar performance could be treated so shabbily.

But I am also a child of 1970s tell-all Yankees books, including Jim Bouton’s classic “Ball Four,” Billy Martin’s “Number One,” and Sparky Lyle’s “Bronx Zoo.” I still am fascinated by the tension between Reggie Jackson and Martin — and every salacious detail of the Rich Gossage-Cliff Johnson fight in 1978.

So even though I have no intention of reading the Torre book, I love the pop culture allusion that was being used in the Yankees clubhouse to describe A-Rod’s jealousy of Derek Jeter. From ESPN again:

Co-written by Torre and Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, “The Yankee Years” is due out Feb. 3. Among other things, the book details how some teammates referred to Alex Rodriguez as “A-Fraud” after he joined the Yankees for the 2004 season, and it compares A-Rod’s supposed obsession with Jeter to the movie “Single White Female.”

So, to satisfy the anti-Yankees gossip addiction deep within me, I tracked down Jim Bouton — the ex-Yanks pitcher who dared to reveal that Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford weren’t saints — and asked him his thoughts on the idea of management banning tell-all books.

The usually chatty Bouton, who took tremendous heat for being the Jackie Robinson of Tell-All Baseball Books, wasn’t so chatty with me in his e-mail. But not surprisingly, he thinks any Yankees attempt to squash free speech will only make the next author even more powerful.

“It will be like working for the CIA,” Bouton writes. “When one of them does write a book (which is guaranteed to happen), it will be a blockbuster.”

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1 Comment

Filed under Asinine Baseball Analogies, Sports

One response to “Are the New York Yankees powerful enough to squash (or buyout) the First Amendment?

  1. Pingback: * The Yankees and the future of the 1st Amendment « Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf

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