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BASEBALL ANTITRUST DEALT SEVERE BLOW IN FLORIDA
Published October 7, 1994
In a 5-1 ruling by the FL Supreme Court, the judges said baseball's antitrust exemption "applies only to the reserve system and not the overall business of the sport." The ruling clears the way for FL Attorney General Bob Butterworth to investigate whether NL owners "conspired" in '92 to keep the Giants from moving to St. Petersburg. Butterworth brought suit in '93 after MLB owners approved the Giants sale to Bob Lurie (Bill Chastain, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/7). When Butterworth served MLB officials with subpoenas in an attempt to investigate, the owners "pointed to their antitrust exemption" -- and a state circuit judge agreed. The Supreme Court "reversed that ruling" (Tim Nickens, MIAMI HERALD, 10/7). The Court decided "that when it comes to team ownership" and franchise relocation, MLB officials are "not immune from laws that guard against monopolies" (Thomas Tobin, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/7). WHAT NOW? In effect, MLB must hand over records and submit to formal questioning from FL officials. MLB could also appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, "a move they are considering. But such an appeal would risk an adverse ruling that could erode" their 72-year-old antitrust exemption. If MLB does not appeal, "they limit damage to Florida. But they still would be forced to reveal sensitive information about the Giants deal" (ST. PETE TIMES, 10/7). Thomas Ostertag, general counsel to the Commissioner's office, said in a release: "While we are disappointed by the decision, we note, as the court itself noted, that the state court opinion is contrary to the great weight of Federal court authority on the subject. We will consider whether to seek review by the United States Supreme Court" (THE DAILY). HELPS EXPANSION EFFORT: The ruling "seemingly enhanced" Vince Naimoli's chances of landing an expansion team to the Bay Area. Naimoli, who led the effort to buy the Giants in '92: "It's certainly an interesting development." Naimoli brought suit against MLB for its actions "in foiling his group's effort" to buy the Giants. But his suit is on hold until April 1995 (Bill Chastain, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/7). Naimoli has said he will drop his suit if an expansion team is awarded,