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GOP Senators Propose Revoking MLB’s Antitrust Status

Senator Ted Cruz speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., January 21, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Reuters)

Republican lawmakers, including Senators Ted Cruz (Texas) and Mike Lee (Utah) have called for an end to Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption after the league announced it would pull the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

The league’s decision came in response to a Georgia voting law that critics claim makes it more difficult for individuals, particularly black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to vote. 

However, proponents of the law deny accusations that it aims to suppress votes, pointing out that the legislation does not place new limits on voting hours and makes the state’s elections more secure without restricting voter access. It even expands weekend early voting. 

Representative Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.) said Friday that he had instructed his staff to begin drafting legislation to rescind the league’s decades-old antitrust exemption, “In light of @MLB’s stance to undermine election integrity laws.” 

“An overwhelming bipartisan majority of Americans support requiring an ID to vote, and any organization that abuses its power to oppose secure elections deserves increased scrutiny under the law,” he added.

Lee later shared Duncan’s post, adding, “Why does @MLB still have antitrust immunity?” 

“It’s time for the federal government to stop granting special privileges to specific, favored corporations—especially those that punish their political opponents,” the Utah Republican added. 

Cruz then tweeted that Lee was “EXACTLY right.”

“@SenMikeLee & I will be working hard to END MLB’s antitrust immunity,” Cruz wrote, adding the hashtag “#GowokeGobroke.” 

The league’s antitrust exemption comes from a 1922 Supreme Court decision. In 1988, Congress passed the Curt Flood Act which gave MLB players the same rights as other professional athletes under antitrust laws, according to The Hill. However, other facets of the sport, such as franchise relocation and broadcast negotiations, are exempt.

The exemption does not apply to other professional sport leagues, including the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. 

On Friday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that after “thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance” he had decided that the “best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.”

Manfred said MLB “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.” 

Supporters have argued that the measure, which Governor Brian Kemp (R.) signed into law last week, has been misrepresented.

The legislation calls for changing the rules and processes for requesting an absentee ballot, including mandating that voters present valid forms of photo identification. It also regulates the future use of drop boxes, which were implemented as a COVID innovation, and the early voting period for runoff elections and gives the state the authority to take over county elections or remove local elections officials.

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