It’s Lee to Cruz to Hawley as GOP makes antitrust play on MLB

Move comes after MLB moves the All-Star Game from Georgia

Lee, right, and Cruz, shown here wearing the home team uniform, say they, along with Hawley, will introduce legislation Wednesday.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Lee, right, and Cruz, shown here wearing the home team uniform, say they, along with Hawley, will introduce legislation Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted April 13, 2021 at 6:04pm

Three Senate Republicans, including Mike Lee, R-Utah, said they will introduce legislation on Wednesday that would end a century-old antitrust exemption for Major League Baseball.

The three senators announced the legislation in the wake of the organization’s decision to move this year's All-Star Game to Denver from Atlanta after Georgia enacted a state law that civil rights advocates say could restrict access to voting for minority groups.

“This exemption was created from whole cloth by the Supreme Court 99 years ago,” Lee, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee, said at a press conference Tuesday. “It’s not a ruling that enjoys any support, either from the statutory text or the Constitution.”

He was joined by cosponsors of the bill, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

The exemption originated in the 1922 U.S. Supreme Court case Federal Baseball Club v. National League. The high court held that baseball games are purely matters of the states where they are played and thus outside the scope of federal antitrust law. A repeal of the exemption would expose the sport to competition law risks.

The Supreme Court last declined to hear challenges to the exemption in 2018.

In one case, Wyckoff v. Office of Commissioner of Baseball, two scouts claimed that all 30 of the MLB’s teams colluded to suppress wages. In another case, Right Field Rooftops v. Chicago Cubs Baseball, property owners claimed that the Chicago Cubs and owner Tom Ricketts blocked some rooftop views of Wrigley Field, which violated their rights.