Does MLB Really Need An Antitrust Exemption?

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred says yes.

At some point soon, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred will be appearing before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee to explain why his business still needs an antitrust exemption. Actually Manfred has sent a letter to the committee which basically said that MLB needs the antitrust exemption to keep franchises from moving from city to city and to control the minor leagues which includes salaries for minor league players. Minor League team owners can move teams or demand new or renovated stadiums such as in Knoxville, Tennessee and other cities. Manfred’s letter has not impressed Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin who is the committee chair.

“It is reasonable to question the premise that MLB is treating the Minor Leaguers fairly. Commissioner Manfred’s response to our bipartisan request for information raises more questions than it answers, and the discrepancies between today’s letter and the reality that minor league players are experiencing reinforce the importance of the Committee’s bipartisan review of the century-old baseball antitrust exemption. We need to make sure MLB is stepping up to the plate when it comes to fair treatment of players and communities, which is why the Judiciary Committee is planning an upcoming hearing on the issue.” Why does a business like Major League Baseball have an antitrust exemption? In 1922 in a decision in the Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore versus the National League, the Supreme Court ruled against the Terrapin owners. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that “personal effort, not related to production, is not a subject of commerce” and that baseball therefore wasn’t subject to federal regulation.” Manfred is right about stopping franchise movement, in 2015, Oakland Athletics ownership was blocked from moving to nearby San Jose as the city is part of  San Francisco Giants territory by a judge who cited the antitrust exemption.

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Rob Manfred AP-PHOTO