Pirates Fire Mascot for Criticizing Contract Extensions - Tarnished Twenty
Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

Pirates Fire Mascot for Criticizing Contract Extensions

The Pittsburgh Pirates have fired one of their "Racing Pierogi," a takeoff of the Milwaukee Brewers' racing sausages. The Pirates fired Pierogi racer Andrew Kurtz after he criticized the contract extensions of general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell on his Facebook page

"Coonelly extended the contracts of Russell and Huntington through the 2011 season. That means a 19-straight losing streak. Way to go Pirates."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Dan Millar, the Pirates' mascot coordinator quickly called Kurtz regarding the post, "He called as the game was going on...I told him I didn't mean anything by it, and he was like, 'Well, why'd you put it up?' I said, it was just an opinion. But he took it negative and talked to his boss. And then they wanted me to turn my uniform in."

According to the Pirates, Kurtz was already under suspension because of a previous undisclosed team rule violation.

As Kurtz did not have a guaranteed employment contract with the team, what does the law have to say about terminating an employee? 

Generally, US employees are employed "at-will," which means that they may be fired as long as they are not being fired for an illegal reason. Employees cannot be fired for a discriminatory reason, such as gender or race discrimination. Employees cannot be fired for filing a complaint against the employer, this is called "whistleblower protection." In addition, employees cannot be fired as a form of sexual harassment, or in violation of oral and written employment agreements. Finally, terminations must follow state and federal labor laws. 

So generally speaking, an employee may be fired to criticizing the decision making of an organization as it constitutes insubordination. This differs from whistleblowing, which is designed to alert authorities to an illegal or dangerous situation being created by the company.

But do not worry too much for Mr. Kurtz, the AP reports that an independent minor-league team, the Wild Things, already offered Kurtz a job as one of its racing hot dogs.

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