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Pros Form 'Player Collective', Suggest Unfair Treatment

by Adam Forziati on

A newly formed collective of top Major League Pickleball (MLP) and Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) pros has literally taken a 'vote of no confidence' toward professional pickleball's leadership - via an anonymous poll.

The poll was produced by the recently established “The Player Collective,” which describes itself as a core group of players working in conjunction with agents to "represent and support all 103 signed MLP players."

"The Collective has secured funding from an Angel (investor) and has retained an Employment Attorney and an Anti-Trust Attorney," according to pro Jill Braverman.

Last week, we broke the news that MLP and PPA players were asked to take a significant pay cut in order for the leagues to continue financially. We’ve since heard that MLP players believe to they are at a greater disadvantage than PPA players.

MLP players were asked to take up to a 40% cut, but PPA players were only asked for 0-10%, according to the Collective. We have also heard that MLP players felt threatened to sign and were given false deadlines to work toward.

According to a recent email obtained by The Dink, a poll asked players for their thoughts surrounding last month's player pay negotiations:

💬
- 93% have not received the information they’ve requested to make an informed decision as whether to accept a pay-cut or not

- 89% of respondents believe they have not been treated fairly during the pay-cut negotiation process

- 88% of respondents believe that they are being punished for their loyalty to MLP

- PPA salaries are 20-40% greater than MLP salaries, yet PPA players have only been asked for a 0-10% reduction

- When asked: “Have you found that Anne, Bruce, John or other MLP staff have been able to successfully answer the majority of your questions?”, 94% of respondents answered “No"

- When asked: “Do you think the PPA is of high moral character and integrity” 79% of respondents answered “No”, 21% answered “No opinion” and not a single respondent answered “Yes”

The Collective adds that "lies, threats, deceitfulness, false deadlines, and refusal to honor written...agreements" have affected player opinions about league leadership.

"Put simply, we believe that MLP has departed from the ethos that we know and love and is instead embodying the exact ethos that we fled from when we signed multi-year deals with Major League Pickleball in August," the email says.

UPDATE 12/14: At least two MLP pro players have confirmed they do not consider themselves a part of the Player Collective, leading to some confusion as to the accuracy of the email's claim that the Collective "represents the 103 signed MLP players."

Anonymous comments from players

At the end of the Collective's email, a post script explains players had an opportunity to provide anonymous feedback to MLP and PPA leadership.

Here are some highlights of that feedback:

This player's thoughts seem to sum up the general sentiment from most of those who provided feedback:

“I'm not upset about pay cuts specifically and I am willing to do anything to support the future of the sport and play the game I love. But I am not willing to accept bad treatment and feel disrespected and taken advantage of by the organization I chose to join. We all love pickleball, all pro players want to help the sport grow, and we should work together with the principles of any strong organization - respect, transparency, community, etc.”

The below player makes a few claims:

  • Connor Pardoe of PPA was given MLP authority to engage in salary discussions
  • Pardoe reportedly insinuated that if an agreement was not reached by a certain time, a larger pay cut would ensue
  • Players who are mothers had their familial situation leveraged in discussions

“The MLP team's behavior during the pay cut negotiations has been shameful. The leadership team should not use the word 'leadership' when describing themselves after leveraging tactics that included: bold-face threats, artificial deadlines, threatening mothers that if they do not accept the cuts they may be scheduled to work on their kid's birthday, intimidation "if you don't take this today by noon your cut increases from 40-60%." That last comment was said by Connor Pardoe, however he was given authority by the MLP team to make calls on MLP's behalf. How could the MLP team think that giving Connor the authority to make calls would induce trust in the players? We chose MLP because we DIDN'T want to work with Connor. There is no one left at MLP, except a few owners, who respect its players. Approach us with honesty and transparency and you will receive the same in return.”

MLP & PPA response

The Dink reached out to MLP and PPA Tour officials for comment.

Here's a joint response from officials at MLP & PPA Tour:

We've had extremely productive conversations with the vast majority of the 103 players who signed MLP contracts that start in 2024, many of whom have accepted a reduction.

Of the 43 Premier Level players who have made a decision, 40 of them have agreed to a salary adjustment. These reductions, in concert with meaningful financial commitments made by MLP's owners, are building a strong path to the long-term success of pro pickleball.

Any player is welcome to play on the PPA tour, period. There is no punishment for not taking a reduction.

Background info

If all of this sounds new or confusing, here's some brief context:

  • Over the summer, MLP and the PPA Tour entered into a bidding war to sign exclusivity contracts with players
  • Those contracts eventually dissolved, and the two warring factions in pro pickleball finally agreed to merger talks
  • This fall, PPA & MLP requested players consent to compensation reductions to re-stabilize budgets, which flew out the window during the summer's bidding war and saw some players' contracts agreeing to multimillion dollar salaries
  • Recently, MLP held an actual auction among team owners to raise additional funds; the highest bidders were given slots on the Premier Level for 2024

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Full email

Dear MLP Stakeholders,

The Player Collective has taken it upon ourselves to directly communicate our concerns with the current proceedings of an organization with whom we have all voluntarily chosen to align: Major League Pickleball.

We recently surveyed the 103 signed MLP players, and found the following:

89% of respondents believe they have not been treated fairly during the pay-cut negotiation process.

When asked: “Have you found that Anne, Bruce, John or other MLP staff have been able to successfully answer the majority of your questions?”, 94% of respondents answered “No”.

88% of respondents believe that they are being punished for their loyalty to MLP.

When asked: “Do you think the PPA is of high moral character and integrity” 79% of respondents answered “No”, 21% answered “No opinion” and not a single respondent answered “Yes”.

We understand the economic reality of pay-cuts, however, lies, threats, deceitfulness, false deadlines, and the refusal to honor written addendums and agreements have no place in the league that we know and love. If we are going to collaborate on contract modifications, we deserve honest answers to honest questions, and we have not received them. Put simply, we believe that MLP has departed from the ethos that we know and love and is instead embodying the exact ethos that we fled from when we signed multi-year deals with Major League Pickleball in August.

Sincerely,

The Player Collective

P.S. We asked players if they would like to share anonymous feedback with MLP or PPA. Below you will find some of their honest, unfiltered opinions:

“I was super excited to sign with MLP after all of the mistreatment and lack of clarity from working with the PPA in the past. I had come to like and trust everyone at MLP. It was SUPER disappointing to see the email and recent communications from MLP recently. It feels like a repeat of all the treatment from PPA - lack of transparency, using pressure and leverage to force players into a decision, contacting players individually with different info, and withholding information. All in all, a lack of trust and true partnership”

“I'm not upset about pay cuts specifically and I am willing to do anything to support the future of the sport and play the game I love. But I am not willing to accept bad treatment and feel disrespected and taken advantage of by the organization I chose to join. We all love pickleball, all pro players want to help the sport grow, and we should work together with the principles of any strong organization - respect, transparency, community, etc.”

“The MLP team's behavior during the pay cut negotiations has been shameful. The leadership team should not use the word "leadership" when describing themselves after leveraging tactics that included: bold-face threats, artificial deadlines, threatening mothers that if they do not accept the cuts they "may be scheduled to work on their kid's birthday", intimidation "if you don't take this today by noon your cut increases from 40-60%." That last comment was said by Connor Pardoe, however he was given authority by the MLP team to make calls on MLP's behalf. How could the MLP team think that giving Connor the authority to make calls would induce trust in the players? We chose MLP because we DIDN'T want to work with Connor. There is no one left at MLP, except a few owners, who respect its players. Approach us with honesty and transparency and you will receive the same in return.”

“It’s sad because it feels like MLP is becoming more and more like the PPA. Going the exclusive route and not giving us the freedom. They are losing players’ trust daily and they continue to give us false and misleading information that’s right in line with Connor and the PPAs manipulative playbook."

“It's not too late for MLP to do the right thing.”


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