Less than two weeks after announcing the Oakland Athletics would not pay their minor league players beyond May 31, team owner John Fisher changed course on Friday. Fisher has committed to paying the organization’s minor league players their $400 weekly stipends through what would have been the end of the minor league season, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I changed my mind after spending a lot of time talking to our team,” Fisher said to the Chronicle. “I concluded I’d made a mistake.”
The players will be paid retroactively for the first week of June. Fisher is worth $2.2 billion, according to Forbes.
A’s minor league players were informed they wouldn’t be receiving their stipends in an email from general manager David Frost obtained by Sports Illustrated.
“Unfortunately, considering all of the circumstances affecting the organization at this time, we have decided not to continue your $400 weekly stipend beyond May 31,” read the email, sent by GM David Forst. “This was a difficult decision and it’s one that comes at a time when a number of our full-time employees are also finding themselves either furloughed or facing a reduction in salary for the remainder of the season. For all of this, I am sorry.”
The A’s joined a long list of clubs that released or discontinued stipend payments for minor league players last week, which was met by significant criticism.
“I’ve listened to our fans and others, and there is no question that this is the right thing to do,” Fisher said to the Chronicle. “We clearly got this decision wrong. These players represent our future and we will immediately begin paying our minor-league players. I take responsibility and I’m making it right.”
Slusser reports that team executives cautioned how the decision to halt payments of minor-league stipends would impact the club’s chances of signing free-agent minor-league players after next week’s draft. The 2020 draft will consist of five rounds, and teams are permitted to sign an unlimited number of players as free agents for bonuses of $20,000 or less.
“Certainly we want to go into that with people feeling as positively about playing for the A’s as possible,” Fisher told the Chronicle, emphasizing the decision to revive stipend payments was centered on fairness toward the organization’s minor league players.