In a filing Wednesday, the Department of Justice asked the federal court to limit the scope of the Baseball Major League antitrust exemptions to “holding, which is key to offering professional baseball exhibitions.”
Calling it a century-old exception – such an exception does not exist in other sports leagues based in the United States – the submission states that the Supreme Court decision, which created the exception, was based on a “rejected” interpretation of the Constitution.
The antitrust exception that protects the way MLB does business has been challenged in the past – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, by the way, has demanded its removal – but it has stood up to all previous legal challenges.
Wednesday’s comments came in a file titled “Statement of Interest” that allows the government to review ongoing legal cases where it is not a plaintiff or defendant. In another recent statement of interest filed in the District Court of Columbia, the Department of Justice called on the judge to reconsider the rejection of the antitrust lawsuit against Amazon.
In this case, the submission was related to a lawsuit in which three former minor league teams affiliated with major league clubs, including Staten Island Yankees, sued the MLB and accused the league of antitrust violations when their teams, along with 40 others, were eliminated. In the recent consolidation of the baseball minor league.
The MLB demanded that the lawsuit be dismissed, citing in part an antitrust exception. The Department of Justice did not take a formal position on the league’s request for release Wednesday in a U.S. District Court hearing in the New York Southern District. But he asked the court to “narrowly define the exception.”
While filing is appropriate for MLB in the short term, because of how it plays in the current lawsuit, the potential to remove exceptions based on various legal challenges can have a far greater impact on how teams run their business and the freedoms granted to different players.
The statement was signed Wednesday by Jonathan Canter, head of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, who, along with Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, is part of a group of progressives seeking to reform antitrust law. For decades, they have argued that the courts used the law in a way that favored large corporations. Both regulators were appointed last year by President Biden, who also signed an executive order in July 2021 aimed at fostering competition across the economy.
David McCabe Contributed to the report.