Pensions Paid to Former Negro League Players not Discriminatory

May 10, 2006 ( - The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Major League Baseball (MLB) did not discriminate against retired white players by giving pension benefits to former Negro League players.

According to the Associated Press, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s summary judgment (SeeFormer Baseball Players Not Entitled to Pensions ) against nearly 1,000 white players who claimed the MLB was discriminatory in giving $1,000 monthly pensions and medical benefits to more than a dozen black players.

Blacks were not allowed into the MLB before 1947 — when Jackie Robinson broke the color-barrier — and instead were forced to join the associations of professional baseball clubs made up of only black players, called “Negro Leagues.” When the associations dissolved, they were no longer able to pay the pensions or benefits to their former players.

In order to pay some sort of amends to these players for their exclusion from the league before 1947, the MLB decided to offer medical coverage and supplemental pay for former Negro League players who joined the MLB after 1947, but for a period too short to qualify them for the league’s benefits, which required at least four seasons.

The 27 players who were eligible for the pensions all played part of at least four seasons.

Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in his opinion that “MLB’s absolute ban on African-American players before 1947 impeded those players from accumulating the necessary years of service in the major leagues to qualify for the medical and pension benefits under the terms of the MLB benefits plan in effect at the time.”