Manfred discusses MLB's political donations

November 27th, 2018

Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed Major League Baseball's recent donation to the Senate campaign of Cindy Hyde-Smith on Tuesday.

The Republican candidate from Mississippi, whose runoff against Democrat Mike Espy was happening on Tuesday, has drawn widespread criticism for comments she made earlier this month about attending a "public hanging." The league has since asked for the $5,000 donation -- made by a lobbyist representing the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball PAC -- to be returned.

"First and most important, the comments attributed to this particular candidate are completely at odds with the values that Major League Baseball has always embraced," Manfred said while speaking at the 35th Annual March of Dimes Sports Luncheon in New York, at which he was honored with the March of Dimes' Sports Leadership Award.

"We did agree to make a donation. At the point in time that the [lobbyist] agreed to do it, he was unaware of the comments. Whether he should have been, or shouldn't have been, he wasn't -- as a factual matter. And that's not a good thing from our perspective. Even more troubling is, we should have been more prompt in terms of requesting the return of the donation -- and already this week we've put in place new procedures to make sure that we don't have a problem like this again."

Manfred said there will be more oversight of all of MLB's political donations, with league executives viewing each donation before it's made.

"I think that, in terms of the process, the way I would characterize it, the lobbyists will have additional steps to go through before they agree to make a donation to any campaign," Manfred said. "Going forward, those decisions will be cleared here in New York before any checks are cut."

MLB's PAC regularly donates to members of both political parties, and Manfred said the league has had internal conversations about whether the practice should continue.

"Part of our political process in the United States has always been financial support for candidates," Manfred said. "It's hard when you have an organization as large as ours, with as many issues that are impacted by the political process, to be completely out. We are very cognizant, however, that in today's world, those kind of donations run the risk of being controversial with segments of our society."