Even as Major League Baseball reached an agreement on Thursday to end a 99-day lockout of its players, one of the most senior members of the US Senate said he intends to to review a century-old Supreme Court decision that allows the league to operate. as a legitimate monopoly.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the Inquirer he would request a hearing to discuss revoking MLB’s exemption from the Sherman Antitrust Act. No other professional sports league has ever enjoyed the same exemption, and it allowed MLB to conduct its business in a way that would be illegal in other industries.
“I want to have an audience,” Durbin said in an interview Thursday. “It’s an interesting legal and political challenge as to how to treat baseball and whether baseball as an entity gets special treatment under the law and shouldn’t be treated like any other society when it comes to reprehensible conduct. I think it is time to ask these questions again.
An MLB spokesman said Thursday the league had no immediate comment on Durbin’s pursuit of a congressional hearing.
Durbin, who believes he would have bipartisan support at such a hearing, stepped into the extended lockdown on Wednesday night when he tweeted that it’s time to “reconsider” baseball’s antitrust exemption. He also implored the owners to ‘unlock the lock and play ball’. The post had been retweeted more than 2,500 times and received more than 10,400 likes as of 5 p.m. Thursday.
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MLB’s special treatment stems from a 1922 Supreme Court case in which it was declared that professional baseball is not a matter of interstate commerce and therefore outside the scope of antitrust law. The decision has often been challenged over the years, but Durbin said the Supreme Court deferred to Congress.
Last year, several members of Congress, including Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, threatened to address the antitrust issue after MLB moved the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver in opposition to Georgia’s election laws. In December, attorneys representing four of the 40 minor league teams that last year were stripped of their affiliation with major league clubs filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging misconduct collusion on the part of MLB to determine the fate of the franchises.
“I brought [MLB] this morning at the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, said, “I have a bill on it,” Durbin said. “I said, ‘Well, then at least two of us will be in court.’ I think there will be many more.”
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Durbin described himself as a baseball fan and expressed his appreciation for the national pastime’s place as “a big part of Americana”. But he also pointed to the low wages and poor working conditions that minor leaguers typically endure as reasons to challenge MLB’s antitrust exemption.
“As far as the basic trade mechanism goes, why do they have this special status in US law?” Durbin said. “Is this consistent with some of the games we want to achieve in terms of player compensation, for example? Minor league players are lucky to get paid, not to mention anything that reflects their talents.
“I think the [antitrust] The question needs to be asked periodically – and it is long overdue.
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