Tuesday morning, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is planning on revisiting MLB’s long-standing antitrust exemption with a letter of inquiry to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a nonprofit group focused on raising awareness about salary and working condition concerns in baseball’s lower levels.
The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Mike Lee. (R-Utah).
The committee asked the Advocates for Minor Leaguers, to provide answers to the following questions that will “help inform the Senate Judiciary Committee’s analysis of the necessity of this century-old exemption.” Questions are not limited to but include “what effect does the antitrust exemption have on the incidence of lockouts and work stoppages at the MLB level, and what impact do these incidents have on minor league players and teams.”
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The letter cites a recent article from The Athletic entitled: “A failed system: A corrupt process exploits Dominican baseball prospects. Is an international draft really the answer.?” The article according to the committee “identified rampant corruption and abuse in the market for international prospects, from giving performance-enhancing drugs to teenagers to shady dealings between scouts and trainers.”
This inquiry is considered the most significant signal that MLB’s century-old antitrust exemption, the only one of its kind in professional sports, is facing unprecedented scrutiny in the wake of reports about MLB teams using the exemption to limit costs in the minor leagues.
“We need to examine how Major League Baseball’s 100-year-old antitrust exemption is affecting the operation of Minor League baseball teams and the ability of minor league ballplayers to make a decent living,” Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote in a statement. “This bipartisan request for information will help inform the Committee about the impact of this exemption, especially when it comes to Minor League and international prospects. We need to make sure all professional ballplayers get to play on a fair and level field.”
Separately, two weeks ago, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in an antitrust suit brought against MLB owners of the contracted minor league teams. In that statement, the Department of Justice called the exemption “an aberration” and suggested that it “does not rest on any substantive policy interests that justify players and fans losing out on the benefits of competition.”