Anti-trust Exemption Newsbeat
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
They should just play for the love of the game! Love of the game can pay the rent.
As I noted at the time the Miranda case was filed last year, the plaintiffs in the suit faced at least one major impediment in their attempt to challenge the minor league pay practices under the Sherman Act: baseball’s antitrust exemption. Indeed, soon after the case was filed, MLB filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit in light of its antitrust immunity.
Given that precedent, it should come as little surprise that Judge Haywood Gilliam dismissed the Miranda suit on Monday, concluding that MLB was shielded from the plaintiffs’ claims by virtue of its antitrust exemption.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Miranda suit had hoped to convince the court not to apply the antitrust exemption in the case by arguing that none of the U.S. Supreme Court’s prior decisions on the topic had ever considered the legality of the minor league pay scale. As one might expect, this argument failed to persuade Judge Gilliam.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
While many fans are aware that baseball is generally exempt from antitrust law, fewer realize that courts have adopted widely divergent views regarding the extent to which MLB’s operations are actually shielded from the law. For instance, just because MLB is generally immune from antitrust law does not mean that a court would necessarily give the league free reign to engage in anti-competitive practices in areas completely unrelated to professional baseball (such as if, for example, MLB Advanced Media — the league’s digital content distribution company — were to enter into a price-fixing scheme with other non-sports-related, Internet-streaming-video service providers).
Courts have traditionally disagreed regarding where to draw the line between MLB’s exempt and non-exempt conduct, and thus are deeply divided over the extent to which they will allow antitrust lawsuits to proceed against MLB. As a practical matter, then, anyone wishing to sue MLB under antitrust law may be able to do so – despite the league’s antitrust exemption – so long as they file their case in the right court…
That having been said, there may be some cases where this sort of forum shopping is not possible. In the San Jose lawsuit against MLB, for instance, the city had to file its case in a local court, even though California judges have traditionally adopted a broad view of baseball’s exemption.
In contrast, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in the recently filed suit challenging MLB’s scout hiring and pay practices wisely elected to file the case in New York, a jurisdiction that has historically viewed the exemption much more narrowly (as reflected in the decisions discussed above involving MLB’s television broadcasting and umpire relations). As a result, it would not be surprising if the New York court allows the antitrust portion of the case to move forward, despite baseball’s exemption.
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