Illinois Senator Durbin Needs To Know More About MLB’s Vanishing Antitrust Exemption

Durbin questions whether MLB should have monopoly powers.

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, put out what really is an embarrassing tweet about the Major League Baseball lockout. “Enough. After almost 100 days of the MLB lockout, it’s time to reconsider MLB’s special antitrust exemption, which allows them to act as a lawful monopoly. Fans across America deserve better. Message to the owners: unlock the lockout and play ball.” Here is a note to Senator Durbin, even if you strip MLB of the Supreme Court of the United States 1922 decision that baseball was a game not an interstate business which gave the industry monopoly powers other federal legislation would protect the industry. The Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 would allow MLB to sell its 30 franchises as one to television or streaming services. The only thing that the antitrust exemption seems to protect owners is from moving a franchise into the New York metropolitan area or into San Jose.

On October 28th, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Curt Flood Act of 1998, revoking baseball’s antitrust exemption for labor matters, but not for issues involving relocation, expansion or the minor leagues. Durbin should be more concerned with 2018 federal legislation than the lockout as it had a long-term impact. There was a change to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Baseball barons can pay players as little as $1,100 a month for four 40-hour or more monthly work weeks per the Save America’s Pastime Act.  Minor League players do not have minimum wage or overtime protections and have no judicial recourse to reverse the decision. MLB owners can pay Minor League Baseball players as little as possible. Keeping Minor League players’ salaries low has been a main concern of Commissioner Rob Manfred and the 30 owners. The owners want cost certainty. Revoking the antitrust exemption is not going to change the owners’ thinking.

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