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NY Attorney General Joins Coalition Challenging Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption

 |  October 24, 2023

New York Attorney General Letitia James has joined forces with 17 other state attorneys general in a collective effort to challenge baseball’s long-standing antitrust exemption. The coalition is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the latest challenge to this exemption, which has remained in place for over a century.

The move comes in support of a case filed in September by the Tri-City ValleyCats and Oneonta Athletic Corporation against Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office. This legal action was prompted by MLB’s decision in 2020 to reduce the number of affiliated minor-league teams from 160 to 120. This shift eliminated the New York-Penn League and ended the ValleyCats’ affiliation with the Houston Astros, a relationship that had spanned from their relocation from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Troy in 2002.

The decision also severed minor-league affiliations with the Auburn Doubledays, Batavia Muckdogs, and Staten Island Yankees. The ValleyCats have since found a home in the independent Frontier League, while the Doubledays and Muckdogs transitioned into summer college teams in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. The Staten Island Yankees, however, ceased operations after losing their affiliation.

Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption, established by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1922, has shielded the sport from certain antitrust laws. This exemption was further upheld in subsequent legal cases, including one in 1953 involving former New York Yankees farmhand George Toolson and the landmark 1972 Curt Flood decision. The latter case, brought by the MLB Players Association, ultimately led to the dismantling of baseball’s reserve clause in 1975 and paved the way for free agency in the sport.

Related: MLB’s Antitrust Exemption Faces New Legal Challenge

The state attorneys general argue that this exemption has prevented legal challenges to actions that harm communities nationwide, such as the reduction of minor-league teams. In a press release, Attorney General James stated, “Due to a series of judicial decisions dating back a century, Major League Baseball is exempt from antitrust laws, meaning the action to cut 40 teams and harm communities throughout the nation cannot be effectively challenged under the antitrust laws. Attorney General James and the coalition urge the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the prior decisions and enable the attorneys general to take action under the antitrust laws.”

New York’s Attorney General Letitia James now stands united with attorneys general from Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia in this endeavor.

The U.S. Department of Justice had previously asked a federal appeals court in February to narrow the scope of the antitrust exemption, but the coalition’s efforts represent a concerted push to revisit the fundamental question of baseball’s special antitrust status. The outcome of this challenge could have far-reaching implications for the sport’s legal framework, which has been largely untouched for nearly a century.

Source: Spectrum Local News