SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Minor league baseball players lost their Ninth Circuit bid to be subject to the same antitrust laws as other businesses on Monday.
In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision that minor league baseball players’ wages fall within the “business of baseball” exemptions cut out by previous Supreme Court decisions and federal laws.
“Minor league baseball players are employed and paid by MLB, and MLB employs minor league players with the hope that some of them will develop into major league players,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas for the panel in a 15-page opinion. “Therefore, the employment of minor league players is precisely the type of activity that falls within the antitrust exemption for the business of baseball.”
Minor league baseball players, many of whom make annual salaries that range from $3,500 to $7,000, argued in their lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme Court decision upon which courts relied for precedent was handed down in 1922, when the business of baseball was dramatically different.
But the Ninth Circuit relied more heavily upon the Curt Flood Act of 1998 in its ruling.
The Act granted baseball players the same antitrust rights professional athletes in basketball and football already enjoyed, including the right to bring antitrust claims against managers.
However, the law made an express exception when it came to wages for minor league ball players.
According to Thomas, the law “explicitly maintained the baseball exemption for anything related to the employment of minor league baseball players—including the use of reserve clauses—and the relationship between organized professional major and minor league baseball.”
Major league baseball players receive a minimum salary of $535,000.
The Ninth Circuit’s decision upheld U.S. District Court Judge Hayward Gilliam’s ruling on the matter in 2015.
Samuel Kornhauser, attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients — four minor league baseball players who played from 2010 to 2012 — will consider an appeal, either by asking the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case en banc or by bringing it to the Supreme Court.
Minor league baseball players get paid a monthly salary according to the level at which they are playing. Class A players get about $1,100 per month, whereas Class AAA players earn about $2,150 per month.
The four players who filed the suit each earned less than $10,000 per year while working an average of 50 to 60 hours per week, which includes unpaid spring training, according to their initial complaint.