Repeal of Baseball's Longstanding Antitrust Exemption: Did Congress Strike Out Again?
Criswell, Charles Allen, Jr.
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In 1922, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that baseball was not interstate commerce and was thus not subject to the restrictions of antitrust laws. Since that time, numerous courts refused to hear cases attacking baseball on antitrust grounds. Under the newly enacted Curt Flood Act of 1998, the practices of anyone involved in organized professional major league baseball that relate to the employment of major league baseball players are now subject to antitrust laws in the same manner as those involved in other professional sports businesses affecting interstate commerce. However, the bill makes no attempt to repeal baseball's exemption as it applies to franchise relocation, nor does it attempt to change major league baseball's existing relationship with the minor leagues. As it stands now, owners will not be able to move their franchises to the location of their choice without approval from a majority of the other owners. Is this a fair system? What are some of the motivating factors behind this desire to control relocation? If team stability is enhanced and the fan base is pacified, why should we care what the owners' motivations are? What are the consequences to the owners who are denied the opportunity to move their team to a different city? These are the questions that need to be answered when considering the logic behind maintaining, at least in part, an archaic, useless, and aberrational exemption to antitrust laws. In attempting to answer these questions, this article will start with an overview of the litigation involving baseball and its antitrust exemption and then move into a discussion about the 1994 players strike, the major precipitating factor for the enactment of the Curt Flood Act. Finally, although it goes against conventional wisdom, it will be argued that giving baseball owners the right to move their teams where they want to and when they want to will strengthen the game as a whole.