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The Minnesota Daily

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The Minnesota Daily

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Eliminate baseball’s antitrust exemption

When mistakes are recognized – whether individuals, corporations or governing bodies made them – the natural expectation is that they will be corrected. Twenty-nine years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized their mistake of exempting Major League Baseball from federal antitrust laws in 1922, but instead of fixing it, they decided instead to dodge the issue and leave any future action in Congress’ hands. Now the time has come to reconcile. And if the Supreme Court is unwilling to make what should be a clear decision, Congress must take the initiative.

Undoubtedly, the perils of not exempting baseball are many and severe. It could, conceivably, destroy the professional game. Team owners would have to come together on a kind of trade agreement and those in the most lucrative markets – such as the New York Yankees’ George Steinbrenner – could choose not to cooperate, opting instead to explore cheaper ways of playing against other teams. The league could be replaced by a loose collection of corporations tied together only by their common product.

In that sense, removing baseball’s antitrust exemption is an all-or-nothing proposition: Either the owners agree to function together, or what we know as Major League Baseball will disappear. If they decide to enter into agreements with each other, it will truly have to be for the good of the game. There are few, if any, other advantages for them. The other problems facing professional baseball – payroll disparity, low revenue, market viability, etc. – will sort themselves out naturally in the free market, if given enough time and commitment from the owners. Certainly, even under the best circumstances it will take decades before professional baseball begins functioning smoothly again.

But even the chance of baseball being managed and played as it should is better than the certainty of a perverse future for the game. Baseball is now beyond redemption as long as those on the professional level are exempt from antitrust laws.

The Supreme Court originally allowed the exemption because they ruled it was a game – not a business – and as such did not exist for profit. Now, however, those who run the league can no longer be trusted to act altruistically in the game’s best interest. Doubters need look no further than Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig is himself an owner – of the decidedly unprofitable Milwaukee Brewers, a team that stands to gain much if the Twins are eliminated – and has proven with his recent remarks that he cannot be trusted to look out for anything more than the bottom line of his sub-par team.

Baseball, despite its flaws, is a beautiful game. Unfortunately, those who control it are unworthy of their power. They have been allowed to continue only because of an 80-year-old mistake. A reckoning is long overdue.

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