Editorial: No anti-trust exemption for baseball

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2001

Senators Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton are on to something.

Friday, November 09, 2001

Senators Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton are on to something. They have asked the president to support legislation that would revoke Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption and expose the league to penalties for its conduct in the contraction scheme that would kill two teams, most likely the Twins and the Montreal Expos.

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The fact is, baseball has abused its anti-trust exemption in the past and its latest scheme is the worst offense yet. The league does not deserve special treatment.

The exemption, granted by the Supreme Court in 1922, keeps the league from being prosecuted when the team owners – all representing individual business organizations – come together to jointly plan operations. This is something other businesses are not allowed to get away with. The reason baseball got an exemption is because it was considered a sport, not an interstate business.

That may have been true in 1922, but big-league sports have become big business. In fact, there’s no denying that this contraction talk is all about business. Its main goal is to make the other 28 teams more wealthy by killing off two.

No other major American sports have an anti-trust exemption, and they are all getting by just fine – better than baseball, as a matter of fact. It’s time to stop giving special treatment to Major League Baseball, especially when the owners’ ruthless tactics endear them to nobody.

The effort to eliminate the Twins is an outrage; Carl Pohlad’s own tight-fisted management of his team is what drove it into the ground, and now he wants to wash his hands of the situation. It would be a crime if Minnesota lost the Twins, and owners are guilty of anti-trust crimes if they force it to happen.