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SBJ/March 4 - 10, 2002/Opinion
MLB's antitrust status is ripe for a challenge
Published March 4, 2002
Bruce Schoenfeld's column "MLB on downside of the Hill" [SportsBusiness Journal, Feb. 11] quoted MLB's Washington lobbyist who, in arguing for the preservation of baseball's partial antitrust exemption in the face of criticism over contraction threats floated by MLB, observed that no one complained when MLS contracted two teams.
Putting aside whether it's appropriate to compare baseball with a start-up soccer league that no one disputes is losing millions annually and which has less than a 10-year operating history, the situations are completely different under the law.
MLS is organized as a single entity, and its structure thus far has been upheld by courts. A single entity cannot be guilty of violating the Sherman Act's prohibition against agreements that are unreasonable restraints of trade because it takes at least two entities to conspire.
MLB can claim exemption from potential antitrust lawsuits challenging an agreement to contract teams only because of a thoroughly discredited 1922 Supreme Court decision. No one seriously contends that courts would find baseball to be a single entity like MLS.
Congress is right to question MLB's unique antitrust exemption. In fact, the Supreme Court since 1922 has repeatedly encouraged Congress to do so.