Senate Judiciary Committee challenges MLB’s exemption from antitrust laws

by Seth Udinski

Seth Udinski, FISM News

 

Earlier this week, ESPN ran a report on the US Senate Judiciary Committee and its new challenge to Major League Baseball’s longstanding exemption from antitrust laws. The committee is comprised of legislators from both sides of the aisle, including Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

The report is focusing on the fair treatment of minor league baseball players, both in their playing and working conditions and also their salaries. It will also explore the impacts that a strike in the majors has on minor league players.

Senator Grassley stated, “This is about ensuring a level playing for the minor leagues and its players. MLB’s special antitrust exemption shouldn’t be imposing labor or contraction problems for minor league teams and players. Baseball is America’s pastime and that means more than just the major leagues.”

Senator Durbin added, “We need to examine how Major League Baseball’s 100-year-old antitrust exemption is affecting the operation of minor league baseball teams and the ability of minor league ballplayers to make a decent living. This bipartisan request for information will help inform the Committee about the impact of this exemption, especially when it comes to minor league and international prospects. We need to make sure that all professional ballplayers get to play on a fair and level field.”

Playing in the big leagues is a top dream of countless little boys, but the sad reality is that the road to the big leagues is difficult and long. Players that struggle in the minors and never make it to the big leagues far outnumber those who get to play out their dreams under the lights of a major league stadium.

The crux of the problem is the salary disparity between the major leagues and the minor leagues. In 2022, the veteran minimum for a Major League Baseball player is $780,000. Franchise stars, such as Phillies slugger Bryce Harper or Padres star Manny Machado, take home an average cut between $25 and $35 million a year.

On the contrary, in 2022, the average salary of a minor league baseball player is anywhere between $4,800 and $15,000 a year. This means most minor league players are living at or below the US average poverty line while they try to fulfill their dream of making it to the big leagues. Many are forced to get a second income, which only hurts their chances of making it big.

The report will also explore the tight ownership that a franchise has a on a player once he is drafted. The club that drafts a player holds that player’s rights for the next seven seasons.

According to ESPN, baseball is the only one of the four major American professional sports to have such a rule in place. The exemption has been active in the league since 1922.

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