Sports · June 23, 2022

The Department of Justice is asking the Court to limit the scope of MLB’s antitrust exemption

In a filing on Wednesday, the Justice Department asked a federal court to limit the scope of Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption to “conducting that is critical to offering professional baseball performances.”

Calling the age-old exemption an aberration – no such exemption exists for other US-based sports leagues – the filing argued that the Supreme Court ruling that created the exemption was based on a “rejected” interpretation of the Constitution.

The antitrust exemption, which protects the way MLB does business, has been contested in the past – Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, among others, has called for it to be removed – but it has withstood all previous legal challenges.

Wednesday’s comments came in a filing called a “declaration of interest,” which allows the government to assess pending legal cases in which it is not a plaintiff or defendant. In another recent statement of interest filed in a District of Columbia court, the Justice Department urged a judge to reconsider his denial of an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon.

In this case, the filing was related to a lawsuit in which three former minor league teams affiliated with major league clubs, including the Staten Island Yankees, sued the MLB accusing the league of antitrust violations when their teams , along with 40 others, were eliminated in a recent minor league baseball consolidation.

MLB asked for the case to be rejected, citing, in part, the antitrust exemption. The Justice Department took no formal position on the League’s dismissal request in its filing Wednesday with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. But he asked the court to “define the exemption narrowly”.

While filing is relevant to MLB in the short term due to the way it intervenes in the pending lawsuit, the potential for lifting the exemption based on various legal challenges could have much greater repercussions in terms of how teams conduct their own. activities and the various freedoms granted to players.

Wednesday’s filing was signed by Jonathan Kanter, chief of the antitrust division of the Justice Department, who along with Lina Khan, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, is part of a group of progressives attempting to push forward antitrust law reforms. For decades, they argue, courts have applied the law in a way that benefits large corporations. Both regulators were appointed last year by President Biden, who also signed an executive order in July 2021 intended to stimulate competition across the economy.

David McCabe contributed to the report.