Senators’ pitch to MLB: Play ball on antitrust regulations

Willians Astudillo
Minnesota Twins pinch-hitter Willians Astudillo hits an RBI single against the Boston Red Sox in the seventh inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Boston. (Elise Amendola/AP)

Senators’ pitch to MLB: Play ball on antitrust regulations

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Several senators are stepping up to the plate with a challenge to MLB’s antitrust exemption.

A bipartisan group of senators zeroed in on the league’s antitrust exemption in a letter to MLB on Tuesday, under a month after the 100th anniversary of Federal Baseball Club v. National League, a Supreme Court case that determined the exemption for the sport.


“We need to examine how Major League Baseball’s 100-year-old antitrust exemption is affecting the operation of Minor League baseball teams and the ability of Minor League ballplayers to make a decent living,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin (D-IL) said in a statement. “This bipartisan request for information will help inform the Committee about the impact of this exemption, especially when it comes to Minor League and international prospects. We need to make sure that all professional ballplayers get to play on a fair and level field.”

The group of senators, which also included Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mike Lee (R-UT), was interested in whether any other sports have antitrust exemptions, whether these exemptions affect lockouts or work stoppages, how it affects the nature of MLB contracts, and how it has been abused with regard to the international market for baseball players.

There are also questions about MLB’s lobbying for the Save America’s Pastime Act, a bill that rewrote federal laws so that baseball players were exempt from minimum wage requirements. While MLB claimed the bill was necessary to stop “minor league contraction,” it did not appear to affect the league’s shrinking in 2021.

“Despite [the act’s] enactment, dozens of minor league teams lost their affiliations with MLB clubs as a result of its reorganization of the minor leagues,” the letter noted.

The exemption was established in 1922 when the Supreme Court ruled that baseball was exempt from interstate commerce regulations due to the fact that “the business is giving exhibitions of baseball, which are purely state affairs.” While some have expressed concerns about this being abused, the Supreme Court maintained in its 1953 ruling that Congress and not the court should handle the exemption, which is offered only to baseball and not other professional sports leagues.

The law has had a particularly detrimental effect on minor league players due to a lack of union or coherent regulations regarding employment.


“Minor League players are far and away the group most negatively impacted by baseball’s antitrust exemption,” Harry Marino, executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, said in a statement. “MLB owners should not have a special license to underpay their workers. We are confident that Congress will recognize as much through this process and, ultimately, repeal baseball’s antitrust exemption as it relates to issues concerning Minor League players.”

MLB’s antitrust exemption has come under additional scrutiny in recent weeks. The Justice Department asked a federal court to limit the scope of the exemption on June 15. Congress has also made multiple attempts to overturn the exemption to no avail due to the partisan nature of the bills.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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