Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Jeff Duncan Introduce Legislation to End MLB's Antitrust Exemption

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Representative Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.) and Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) filed legislation on Wednesday seeking to end MLB's antitrust exemption. 

The legislation is cosponsored by Republican senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio and Marsha Blackburn. There are 29 original cosponsors in the House of Representatives, all of whom are Republicans. If passed, the legislation would eliminate the antitrust status afforded to Major League Baseball since 1922.  

"Consumers benefit when businesses compete, and baseball is no different. In fact, a professional sports league should understand best of all the benefits of competition,” Sen. Lee said in a statement. “Instead, Major League Baseball has used its judicially fabricated antitrust immunity to suppress wages and divide up markets for decades—conduct that is plainly illegal, and sometimes criminal, in any other industry."

The introduction of the legislation comes just weeks removed from MLB's decision to move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia's new voting law, which critics say restricts access to the ballot box, particularly for Black voters and other voters of color.

"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement at the time of the announcement. 

The 2021 All-Star Game has since been rescheduled to take place at Coors Field in Denver.

“This is just the latest in a wave of corporate decisions to ‘Go Woke,' " Rep. Duncan said in a statement. "If companies or organizations want to undermine efforts to ensure the integrity of our elections process, then they invite increased scrutiny of their business practices. I urge Major League Baseball to reconsider this short-sighted decision, and I urge my colleagues to stand strong against the onslaught of the Woke Left on daily American life.” 

MLB's exemption was first created by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1922 case Federal Baseball Club v. National League. Through the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, the NBA, NFL and NHL also all have antitrust status.

Despite the introduction of the legislation, Lisa Pike Masteralexis, a professor of sports law at University of Massachusetts Amherst, tells NBC News that it's still unclear how likely it is MLB loses the exemption in the future and becomes law.

"Congress people come out (from time to time) and say, 'We're going to take the exemption away' and through whatever their lobby is, it just never seems to happen," Masteralexis said. 

However, according to Sportico legal analyst Michael McCann, its introduction "could spark Congressional hearings that prove disruptive for MLB" in the lead-up to new collective bargaining agreement negotiations this winter.

"Congress can conduct investigations and use the subpoena power to compel witness testimony and disclosure of sensitive financial documents," McCann writes. "Information gathered through a Congressional investigation could influence bargaining between MLB and MLBPA and shape public opinion on which side is 'in the right' in what could become a labor dispute."

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