Thursday September 28, 2023

Rob Manfred Defends MLB’s Antitrust Exemption in Letter to Senate

  • MLB Commissioner writes elimination of exemption would limit its 'ability to mandate improved working conditions.'
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing whether the exemption should be rescinded.
Thomas Bender/USA TODAY Network
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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote that a repeal of the league’s antitrust exemption would limit its “ability to mandate improved working conditions and benefits for all minor league players” in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Manfred’s letter sent Friday was in response to a bipartisan effort in the Senate Judiciary Committee to explore whether striking down the century-old exemption would improve pay, living, and working conditions in the minors. 

Committee chair Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) asked MLB to explain the impact rescinding the exemption would have in a letter earlier this month

Harry Marino, the executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, said in June that MLB “should not have a special license to underpay their workers.”

“Removing the exemption is not in the interests of the 120 communities in which affiliated minor league baseball is currently played,” Manfred wrote in the letter obtained by Front Office Sports. 

“Without coordinated oversight and decision-making by MLB, it is likely that more minor league affiliates will leave their existing communities for a superior player-development environment, and that fewer — rather than more — minor league clubs affiliated with MLB clubs will exist in the future.”

In 2021, MLB assumed control of operations of the minor leagues and contracted about 40 teams. That leaves 120 minor league affiliates, some who pay players less than $5,000 per season. 

“MLB clubs provide a net subsidy to the minor league operators of over $1 billion per year,” Manfred wrote. “Indeed, revenue from the minor leagues constitutes 0.2% of total league revenue, but MLB clubs spend 10% of league revenue to operate the minor league system.”

ESPN was the first outlet to report Manfred’s letter. 

Manfred told reporters at MLB’s All-Star Game on July 19 that the league has “made real strides in the last few years in terms of what minor league players are paid.”

“I reject the premise that they are not paid even a living wage,” Manfred said.

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