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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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18 State AGs Ask Supreme Court to Take Up MLB Antitrust Case

  • Coalition supports Tri-City ValleyCats and the Norwich Sea Unicorns challenge of MLB’s antitrust exemption.
  • The teams were among 40 that lost their MLB affiliations in 2020.
MLB antirust

Eighteen attorneys general nationwide urged the Supreme Court to hear a challenge of MLB’s broad antitrust exemption in an amicus brief filed on Monday. 

The brief comes as part of a legal challenge by Tri-City ValleyCats and the Norwich Sea Unicorns — two of the 40 minor league clubs that lost their MLB affiliations in 2020 — that seeks to curtail MLB’s antitrust exemption. 

In a petition to the nation’s highest court last month, the teams argued MLB’s antitrust protection “has metastasized into a sweeping immunity that permits MLB to engage in brazenly anticompetitive behavior.”

“Baseball may be ‘America’s Pastime,’ but it should also have to play by America’s laws that govern monopolies,” New York Attorney General Letitia James wrote in a statement. “Minor league clubs are part of the fabric of hundreds of communities throughout the nation that don’t have nearby access to a Major League Baseball stadium. By calling these clubs out of the system, Major League Baseball is punishing the fans and local communities.”

The brief by the attorneys general centers around their inability to investigate MLB over alleged anticompetitive behavior related to the contraction of minor league teams from 160 to 120. 

“That contraction struck at the economic wellbeing of teams and communities in 23 states across the country,” the attorneys general wrote in the brief. “But an affected state that wanted to challenge the contraction under its antitrust laws would have no ability to do so. States are preempted from exercising their historic police powers and enforcing their own antitrust laws by a century-old, judge-made federal exemption that covers the business of baseball other than MLB player employment.”

While the NFL has a limited antitrust exemption related to how it can negotiate national broadcast deals, the antitrust exemption granted to MLB in 1922 is more broad. There have been moves by members of Congress over the years to curtail it over issues related to baseball’s steroid issues nearly two decades ago to the pending relocation of the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas. 

Legal scholars and the Rensselaer County (New York) Regional Chamber of Commerce — home to the Troy-based ValleyCats — also submitted briefs on Monday calling on the Supreme Court to take up a case. 

Last week, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) submitted their own brief

Beyond New York, the attorneys general for Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and D.C. were part of the coalition behind the Monday brief.

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