Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee want to end Major League Baseball’s antitrust immunity following the league’s decision to relocate the All-Star Game and 2021 draft from Georgia in response to the state’s new voter laws. Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp also called out President Joe Biden for supporting taking the games out of the state.
Proponents say the laws are designed to restore election integrity. Critics say they are based on false claims of voter fraud and are no more than a transparent attempt to make it more difficult for lower income and minority citizens to vote.
MLB has enjoyed an antitrust exemption when it comes to franchise relocation and broadcast deals for 99 years, a waiver not granted to the National Football League and National Basketball Association.
Baseball’s antitrust exemption was created by the 1922 Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Federal Baseball Club v. National League. Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that baseball games were “purely state affairs” which, to maintain their popularity, “must be arranged between clubs from different cities and states.” The fact that the leagues “must induce free persons to cross state lines and must arrange and pay for their doing so is not enough to change the character of the business.” The ruling was addressed by the Supreme Court in Flood v. Kuhn in 1972. That court disagreed with the Holmes court, finding that MLB engages in interstate commerce. In a 5-3 vote, the court decided not to overturn the 1922 precedent.
The threat to take away the exemption is made from time to time when political clashes occur.