To many people, including those who run Evans, Major League Baseball is acting like a money-grubbing Goliath. "The uniforms sold by the licensed manufacturers cost about 10 percent more than the ones we make, and that's coming out of the pockets of parents who have to scrap for every dime," says David Miller, co-owner of Evans. "They hold pancake breakfasts and sell candy door-to-door so their kids can play ball. I don't think baseball should be making money off of people like that."
On the other hand, Major League Baseball, like any other U.S. business, has the right to protect its trademarks, and with licensed merchandise accounting for annual sales of more than $2 billion, it's not surprising that baseball guards those trademarks carefully. Nor is it out of line for the companies who have paid good money to become licensees to take issue with outfits like Evans.
According to Don Gibson, the vice president and general counsel of Major League Baseball Properties, baseball is working out a plan that would enable youth teams to buy from licensed dealers iron-on decals of big league team names and logos, which they could transfer onto T-shirts. Better yet, why doesn't Major League Baseball give accredited youth organizations royalty waivers so that they could purchase uniforms from licensed manufacturers for less? The goodwill generated would be more than worth the income lost.
The case is in discovery, and it may be several years before it is resolved. How the case turns out, though, is probably less important than the sad realization that even youth baseball is no longer free of major league money headaches.
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