The U.S. Supreme Court Monday turned down the city of San Jose’s bid for revision of a 93-year-old doctrine that exempts professional baseball from antitrust laws.
The high court justices declined to hear San Jose’s appeal of a lower court’s dismissal of its antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball. The Supreme Court action leaves the exemption in place.
San Jose’s lawsuit claimed MLB violated antitrust laws by allegedly delaying and blocking a possible move by the Oakland A’s to the South Bay.
In its now-rejected appeal, San Jose asked the Supreme Court to take a new look at the doctrine and either overturn it or narrow its scope.
The city previously lost its case before a federal trial judge in San Jose in 2013 and then before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in January.
Both courts said they were bound by a 1922 decision in which the Supreme Court said “the business of baseball” was not subject to federal antitrust law because it was not part of interstate commerce, as then defined. The trial and circuit judges said only the high court could change the precedent.
The Supreme Court affirmed the doctrine in 1954 and 1972, while acknowledging it was “an anomaly” that baseball is the only professional sport exempt from the laws.
In its appeal for a new review, San Jose argued the exemption was unfair, harmed consumers, and was being applied by MLB far more broadly — for example to broadcast and digital media rights — than the Supreme Court could have envisioned in 1922.
The city’s lawsuit claimed MLB was violating antitrust laws in two ways in its alleged blocking of San Jose’s proposal to have the A’s move to a new stadium in that city.
One way was MLB’s territorial rights rule, under which the San Francisco Giants club could veto an A’s move to the South Bay and could be overridden only by a three-fourths vote of all clubs.
The second claim was alleged stalling by an MLB relocation committee assigned to study a possible move.