June 20, 2022
DOJ Calls Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption ‘An Aberration’
The DOJ filed a statement of interest on Wednesday in a suit being brought by four minor league teams jointly represented by Berg & Androphy and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP against MLB over the realignment of baseball’s minor league system that stripped 40 clubs of their big league affiliations.
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The DOJ’s statement did not take a position on MLB’s motion but said baseball’s judicial carveout from antitrust scrutiny “does not rest on any substantive policy interests that justify players and fans losing out on the benefits of competition.”
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The DOJ noted that the courts never extended a similar reprieve to any other professional sport. And in addition to being unique to baseball, the DOJ said the exemption is also an anomaly among antitrust exemptions because the others are intended to “reconcile competing legal authorities or substantive policy goals.”
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The DOJ’s statement also argued that the court should view the exemption narrowly, contending it should be confined to what the Supreme Court has articulated, which is conduct “central to providing professional baseball games to the public.” While it may cover things such as the MLB’s structure, the statement said, it should not reach “conduct beyond the scope of the offering of exhibitions of professional baseball.