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DOJ Asks Court to Limit Scope of MLB’s Antitrust Exemption

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In a filing on Wednesday, the Department of Justice asked a federal court to limit the scope of Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption to “conduct that’s central to the offering of skilled baseball exhibitions.”

Calling the century-old exemption an aberration — no such exemption exists for other United States-based sports leagues — the filing said the Supreme Court ruling that created the exemption was based on a “repudiated” interpretation of the Structure.

The antitrust exemption, which protects M.L.B.’s way of doing business, has been challenged previously — Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, amongst others, has called for its removal — nevertheless it has stood as much as all previous legal challenges.

Wednesday’s comments got here in a filing called a “statement of interest,” which allows the federal government to weigh in on ongoing legal cases where it is just not a plaintiff or the defendant. In one other recent statement of interest filed in a District of Columbia court, the Justice Department had urged a judge to reconsider his dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon.

On this instance, the filing was related to a suit by which three former minor league teams affiliated with major league clubs, including the Staten Island Yankees, have sued M.L.B. accusing the league of antitrust violations when their teams, together with 40 others, were eliminated in a recent consolidation of Minor League Baseball.

M.L.B. has asked for the suit to be dismissed, citing, partly, the antitrust exemption. The Justice Department took no formal position on the league’s request for a dismissal in its Wednesday filing within the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Latest York. Nevertheless it did ask the court to “define the exemption narrowly.”

While the filing is relevant to M.L.B. within the short term due to the way it plays into the continuing lawsuit, the potential for a removal of the exemption based on various legal challenges could have far larger repercussions by way of how teams conduct their business and the varied freedoms afforded to players.

Wednesday’s filing was signed by Jonathan Kanter, the pinnacle of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, who together with Lina Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, is an element of a bunch of progressives attempting to advance reforms to antitrust law. For many years, they argue, courts have applied the law in a way that favors big corporations. Each regulators were appointed last 12 months by President Biden, who also signed an executive order in July 2021 meant to spur competition across the economy.

David McCabe contributed reporting.

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