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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Law

Congress Member Questions MLB Antitrust Exemption

  • Rep. Barbara Lee pointed out that an A's relocation would cut against the league's rationale for its antitrust exemption.
  • The exemption has come under scrutiny in recent years.
Oakland A's could leave the city for Las Vegas.
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

A federal legislator sees the Oakland A’s relocation effort as an opportunity to call MLB’s long-standing antitrust exemption into question. 

On Monday, Oakland’s Rep. Barbara Lee sent a letter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred pointedly asking if the league’s federal antitrust exemption is appropriate in light of the league’s encouragement in moving the A’s to Las Vegas — particularly Manfred’s promise to waive the team’s relocation fee.

Lee cited Manfred’s July 2022 letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, in which she claims he “volunteered that ‘The MLB antitrust exemption helps ensure that MLB Clubs maintain deep and enduring relationships with their fan bases, whereas franchises in other sports regularly relocate from one market to another.’” 

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“MLB’s continued active encouragement of the A’s abandonment of Oakland and the East Bay runs counter to the rationale supporting MLB’s century-old exemption from federal antitrust law,” Lee added.

The antitrust exemption has come under scrutiny in recent years. In June 2022, a bipartisan quartet from the Senate Judiciary Committee launched an effort to examine the exemption and if it is still appropriate. 

That was in response to MLB’s termination of 40 minor league teams in 2020. Minor league players have since joined the MLBPA and successfully lobbied for improvements in salaries and working conditions.

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