Senate panel seeking information on MLB’s antitrust exemption

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) is seen during a press conference following the weekly policy luncheon on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.
Greg Nash
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) is seen during a press conference following the weekly policy luncheon on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has sent a letter to the MLB requesting more information about the league’s antitrust exemption on its minor league players and teams.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, the panel asked Advocates for Minor Leaguers Executive Director Harry Marino about how the league’s antitrust exemption is affecting minor league athletes and the operations of minor league baseball teams. 

Advocates for Minor Leaguers is a nonprofit organization that seeks to better working conditions for minor league baseball players.

The letter was signed by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) 

“May 29, 2022 marked the 100-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s unilateral creation of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) antitrust exemption in the case Federal Baseball Club v. National League,” the senators wrote in the letter. “As we mark this anniversary, we write to seek information about how baseball’s antitrust exemption is impacting competition in the labor market for minor league ballplayers as well as the operations of minor league teams.” 

The Supreme Court ruled in that 1922 case that the MLB did not meet the criteria of “interstate commerce,” resulting in the court deciding that the league didn’t fall under the Sherman Act, which prohibits businesses from engaging in acts that suppress competition — hence the antitrust exemption. 

In a series of questions, the senators asked Marino if the antitrust exemption has an effect on MLB lockouts and work stoppages and what role it plays when a minor league player signs a “Minor League Uniform Player Contract,” among other queries. 

The panel also noted an Athletic article published in January that detailed a corrupt system within the international player market, including performance-enhancing drug use and shady deals between local scouts and trainers. 

“We appreciate your attention to this timely issue and look forward to working with you to ensure that players, communities, and fans can continue to enjoy America’s pastime,” the senators concluded their letter. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill in March that targeted the league’s antitrust exemption following the MLB lockout, which ended earlier that month. 

Sanders said in his statement at the time that the Senate Judiciary Committee should look into the matter as well. 

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice issued a statement of interest on the minor league contraction antitrust case Nostalgic Partners, LLC v. The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, referring to the league’s antitrust exemption as an “aberration” that “does not rest on any substantive policy interests that justify players and fans losing out on the benefits of competition,” a press release from the committee noted.

Tags Advocates for Minor Leaguers antitrust antitrust exemption antitrust legislation Bernie Sanders Chuck Grassley Chuck Grassley Department of Justice Dick Durbin Dick Durbin Dick Durbin Mike Lee Mike Lee MLB MLB MLB Richard Blumenthal Senate Judiciary Committee Senate Judiciary Committee
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