Bernie Sanders introduces the ‘Save American Baseball Act’ to challenge MLB’s antitrust exemption

by mcardinal

Matt Bush, FISM News


Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced a new bill, titled the Save American Baseball Act, to challenge Major League Baseball’s exemption to antitrust laws, a carve-out that goes back a century.

A repeal of the exemption, in reality, would not change much about how Major League Baseball (MLB) is currently run, but it would make a statement.

Sanders, when he announced the bill, said, “I think the time is now when these billionaires should start paying attention to the needs of the fans and the people of this country, rather than just their bottom line.”

The history of the issue at hand goes back to 1890, when the Sherman Antitrust Act was signed into law. The Cornell School of Law describes the Act as, “a federal statute which prohibits activities that restrict interstate commerce and competition in the marketplace.” 

In 1922, the case of “Federal Baseball Club vs National League” was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuit asserted that the MLB was in violation of the Sherman Act, but the Supreme Court sided with Major League Baseball, ruling that it was not an example of interstate commerce and therefore antitrust regulations did not apply to the organization. The Court ruled that each MLB team is purely an entity within its own state and even though each team crossed state lines it did not classify as “interstate commerce.”

Sanders said he was spurned to action because of the recent lockout that postponed the start of the MLB season. He also stated that the league’s decision to eliminate 40 minor league clubs highlights that the owners have too much power that has gone unchecked. 

Major League Baseball in recent history, has become synonymous with the word “lockout.” There have been three lockouts in the MLB since 1990:

  1. The 1990 season lost its entire spring training but no games were canceled.
  2. From 1994 to 1995, over 900 games were cancelled including the entire 1994 postseason.
  3. This year the entire preseason was canceled but the entire regular season is scheduled to be played.

The timing of this year’s lockout was seen as particularly tone deaf as the nation struggled to financially adapt to record inflation levels and gas prices. Currently, ten players in MLB have contracts worth more than $250 million, and the average player salary is worth over $4 million.

According to The Hill Sanders said, “Removing the MLB’s antitrust exemption would bring the league in line with other major professional leagues.”

In an appearance on “Real Sports” with Bryant Gumbel, he said that, “It would mean that competition would arise. It would mean that other people would have the opportunity to start different Major League Baseball leagues. It would mean that baseball would be spreading to areas that now don’t have it. In other words, there would be finally competition. And the Major Leagues would not be able to do simply what they wanted to do.”

To date, the bill has not found a co-sponsor, but with the nature of the bill Sanders seems confident that he will find not only support, but bi-partisan support for it.

In April of last year, a group of Republican senators also proposed pulling MLB’s exemption of the Sherman Act as well. The group which included Senators Rubio, Hawley, Cruz, Lee, and Blackburn made the appeal after MLB pulled the All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia adopting new electoral protection laws.

While repealing MLB’s exemption would probably not affect everyday business in the Majors, it could have a much larger effect on Minor League Baseball and NCAA baseball.