Minor League Players’ Antitrust Suit Out

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge Monday dismissed an antitrust class action from Minor League ballplayers who claim Major League Baseball team owners and Commissioner Bud Selig conspire to fix their salaries.
The average salary of a Major League ballplayer on opening day this year was $4.2 million, according to The Associated Press. The average salary of a Minor Leaguer is more difficult to come by, but they start at $1,100 a month for a 6-month season, and are believed to earn less than the federal poverty guideline.
Assuming, generously, that the average Minor Leaguer makes $15,000 a year, their salary would be 0.3 percent of the salary of a Major Leaguer.
Lead plaintiff Sergio Miranda sued all 30 Major League teams and the commissioner in December 2014. He claimed, among other things, that the reserve clause blocks Minor League players from negotiating with other teams for seven years, denying them “the freedom of movement available to players in virtually all other professional sports.”
U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam heard arguments on the legitimacy and boundaries of baseball’s antitrust exemption on Aug. 28 in a hearing on baseball’s motion to dismiss .
The Minor Leaguers’ attorney Saumel Kornhauser said the exemption was based on “quicksand:” predicated on the fiction that baseball is not engaged in interstate commerce, a notion the Supreme Court rejected in Flood v. Kuhn (1972).
But Judge Gilliam on Monday followed the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning in its January ruling in City of San Jose v. Comm’r of Baseball. In that case, involving the attempted relocation of the Oakland A’s, the Ninth Circuit found that baseball’s antitrust exemption applies broadly to the “business of providing public baseball games for profit between clubs of professional baseball players.”
Although the Curt Flood Act of 1998 lifted the antitrust exemption for Major League players and gave them free agency, Congress “expressly declined to modify” the exemption for “practices affecting the employment of Minor League baseball players,” Gilliam wrote.
Gilliam acknowledged the Minor League players presented a persuasive argument that baseball “should not be afforded carte blanche to restrict the pay and mobility of Minor League players.”
However, he found that only Congress and the Supreme Court possess the power to alter baseball’s “singular and historic exemption from antitrust laws.”
Gilliam dismissed with prejudice, finding an amended complaint would not survive, given baseball’s antitrust exemption.
Attorney Kornhauser, of San Francisco, did not immediately return a request for comment.
A spokesman for Major League Baseball said MLB is “pleased with the court’s decision.”

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