America’s Game Bygone: Avarice, Antitrust, & Baseball

By William N. Morris (University of Mississippi)

This Article will assess the role, impact, and future of the anti-trust exemption currently enjoyed by Major League Baseball. The U.S. Supreme Court granted an antitrust exemption to the MLB in 1922 to protect an emerging league from undercutting competitors. Early baseball arguably needed government protectionism to maintain its existence and sustain growth. To analyze this quandary, it is worth acquainting an unfamiliar reader with the role and enforcement of anti-trust law, and how the exemption functions regarding baseball. This Article will then examine the history of baseball’s antitrust exemption. The commissioner and owners of the MLB have a record that consistently assails against the player class. No compelling reason exists to leave the exemption in place; the MLB now resides adjacent Gilded Age robber barons for which the Sherman Act was promulgated to restrain. This Article can, and often will, rely solely on recent events by the MLB to demonstrate intentional league malfeasance. As baseball owners under new commissioner Manfred routinely blush at the manner capitalism has raised club revenues, broadcast deals, and stadium construction so too must they accept the teeth that come with capitalism’s benefit. The MLB must have their exemption stripped to protect the future of the sport as it flails in comparison to other major American sports leagues. Further, there are both labor law and general business considerations that would be met by an unshielded MLB. The Article will then address possible avenues that would abolish the exemption. The likely best option regarding judicial action hinges on the Court’s impending decisions that would erode the principle of stare decisis. Next, the Article will predict future action concerning the exemption and offer solutions to improve MLB marketability and competition amongst franchises. Finally, the Article will conclude that the exemption will be stripped, and baseball will reap rewards as a result while more players and cities benefit considerably.

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