Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association and prior Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, Donald Fehr (’73) discussed his 38 years in professional sports with students, faculty and staff
UMKC School of Law graduate Donald Fehr (’73) visited the law school October 4 for a breakfast and discussion sponsored by the Sports Law Society. Fehr spent 33 years with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, the last 26 as executive director. Today, he is executive director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association.
During the event, Fehr spoke about his experiences in professional sports and how the world of professional sports vastly differs from the traditional workplace. He gave several analogies comparing the employer-employee relationship in sports to law school and legal careers, noting that we give sports deference in ways that are abnormal. He also cited examples and cases that helped further explain how and why players unions operate.
At the MLBPA, Fehr led the players union through the 1990 player lockout and two strikes, including the 232-day 1994–95 strike and subsequent World Series cancellation, the first since 1904. He was instrumental in implementing the rejection of future admissions into the MLBPA by replacement players who planned to fill in during the strike of 1995. Fehr litigated the collusion cases of the 1980s, which led to the owners paying $280 million in damages to the players; won the bad-faith bargaining case that ended the 1994-95 strike and subsequently negotiated an agreement; and negotiated new agreements with MLB in 2002 and 2006.
Early in his career as a young lawyer, Fehr worked on a landmark case for the MLBPA in the Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally arbitration case, which would become known as the Seitz decision, winning the players’ rights to free agency after playing one year for their team without a contract.
Fehr was the recipient of the School of Law Alumni Achievement Award in 1991 and returned to UMKC to deliver the commencement address for the School of Law in 2008. He was at UMKC to give a master class Thursday evening as part of the campus Founders Week, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the University.