The NFL enjoys a broad antitrust exemption. Baseball enjoys an even broader exception to federal laws aimed at encouraging competition and limiting monopolies.
Basically, baseball has a complete and total exemption from the antitrust laws. That may not last. The Senate Judiciary Committee has decided to take a closer look at baseball’s 100-year-old license to chill competition.
A letter sent Monday to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred seeks answers to various questions. The Committee wants to know how the MLB’s “structure and operations” compare to pro sports leagues that don’t have blanket antitrust exemption — the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL. The Committee also wants to know what justifies the MLB’s ongoing blanket exemption, when the other leagues don’t have it.
The Committee seems to be focusing on MLB’s hammerlock on the various minor leagues. Recently, the MLB agreed to pay $185 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by current and former minor-league players over wage payment.
Although this issue has no direct relevance to the NFL, it’s a reminder that, when it comes to antitrust exemptions, Congress giveth. It also can taketh away.