Senators ask minor leaguers for information on MLB antitrust

United States Courts

The chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to an advocacy group for minor leaguers asking questions about baseball’s antitrust exemption.

Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who chairs the committee, and Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, sent the letter Tuesday to Harry Marino, executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers. The letter, first reported by The Washington Post, also was signed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

The senators asked for information on “the impact of the antitrust exemption on the negotiation of minor league players’ length of contract, wages, housing or other working conditions.”

Baseball’s antitrust exemption was created by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1922 case involving the Federal League, when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in a decision that baseball was not interstate commerce but exhibitions exempt from antitrust laws. The Supreme Court reaffirmed the decision in a 1953 case involving New York Yankees farmhand George Toolson and in the 1972 Curt Flood decision, saying any changes should come from Congress.

The Curt Flood Act of 1998, which President Bill Clinton signed, applies antitrust laws to MLB affecting the employment of major league players at the major league level.

Perhaps the biggest impact of the exemption is that it allows MLB to prevent a franchise from moving to a different city without MLB permission.

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