Attorney General James Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Minor League Teams

Rory Pollaro WNYNewsNow

(WNY News Now) – A bipartisan coalition of 18 attorneys general, led by Attorney General Letitia James, is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to address the century-old baseball antitrust exemption, which has adversely affected minor league baseball teams, including four in New York and dozens across the country.

Washington D.C. – Attorney General Letitia James, along with a coalition of 18 attorneys general from various states, is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a challenge to the baseball antitrust exemption, citing its adverse impact on minor league teams nationwide. The case, known as “Tri-City ValleyCats, Inc. and Oneonta Athletic Corporation v. The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball,” emerged in the aftermath of a 2020 agreement among 30 Major League Baseball teams to reduce the number of affiliated minor league teams from 160 to 120. The root of the problem lies in a century-old legal precedent that grants Major League Baseball an exemption from antitrust laws, effectively preventing any effective legal challenge against such actions. Attorney General James and the coalition are pressing the Supreme Court to revisit and overturn this precedent, thereby enabling them to take action under antitrust laws.

In her statement, Attorney General James emphasized the need for Major League Baseball to be subject to the same antitrust laws as other industries: “Baseball may be ‘America’s Pastime,’ but it should also have to play by America’s laws that govern monopolies.” She highlighted that the reduction of minor league teams impacts communities that lack nearby access to Major League Baseball stadiums and that dismantling these clubs harms fans and local economies. The coalition of attorneys general aims to safeguard these minor league teams and empower millions of Americans to continue enjoying local baseball.

The 2020 decision by Major League Baseball to decrease the number of affiliated minor league teams had far-reaching consequences. It affected not only the four New York-based teams, the Auburn Doubledays, Batavia Muckdogs, Staten Island Yankees, and Tri-City ValleyCats but also 36 other teams spread across 23 states. These teams lost not only the ability to compete for minor league talent but also the financial support they received from their Major League affiliates. In most other sports and industries, such an agreement to limit competition would be subject to state and federal antitrust laws, designed to protect consumers and promote competition. However, a century-old series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings has granted baseball an exemption from these laws. The coalition contends that these rulings should be overturned, highlighting the mistake made by the Supreme Court in denying the enforcement of antitrust laws at the state level, despite Congress never intending to preempt such enforcement.

Joining Attorney General James in this plea to the Supreme Court are the attorneys general of various states, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The coalition’s efforts are aimed at addressing the long-standing issue of the baseball antitrust exemption, with the hope of restoring fairness and competitive balance to minor league baseball and the communities it serves.

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