Federal appeals court affirms dismissal of antitrust suit against Major League Baseball

By Glenn Minnis | Jun 30, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal court judge panel has affirmed a district court’s dismissal of an antitrust suit filed by former minor league players against Major League Baseball.

In rendering its verdict, the team of three appeal judges held with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, which previously established professional minor league baseball is exempt from federal antitrust laws.

In a decision where the opinion was authored by Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit also cited Congress’ previous exemption of minor league baseball in the Curt Flood Act of 1998 as part of the basis of its ruling.  

Sergio Miranda, Jeffrey Dominguez, Jorge Padilla and Cirilo Cruz moved to file suit individually and on behalf of all those similarly situated in 2014, naming then-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and all 30 MLB teams as defendants. The petition directly accused each of them of conspiring “to fix minor league players’ pay” and of stragetically restricting their ability to work for other teams.

Throughout the proceedings, lead plaintiff attorney Samuel Kornhauser argued that the government is off base in exempting baseball from antitrust laws because that consideration is largely based on the faulty premise the league does not engage in interstate commerce.

In 1922, the U.S. Supreme Court granted baseball an antitrust exemption based on its finding that the game was not a form of interstate commerce. Since then, the court has reaffirmed that ruling on two separate occasions.

"The Supreme Court has given no indication it's changing its mind," the appeals court said, adding, "How are we not constrained by that?"

According to Courthouse News, MLB earned nearly $10 billion in revenue in 2016, and three years before that Forbes reported each team was valued on average at $744 million.

Meanwhile, a 2015 Associated Press study found most minor leaguers earn no more than $7,500 annually and receive no overtime pay for work weeks that can stretch as long as 75 hours.

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