Throw The Baseball Exemption Out

In a world of deregulation and market competition, where even Russia and China recognize the fruits of free enterprise, it is quite amazing that America's pastime is exempt from the rules of supply and demand. Major League Baseball's antitrust immunity harks back to 1922 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that baseball was not a business and therefore did not fall under federal antitrust laws. A ruling in 1953 left the door open for Congress to remove the exemption. If the antics of this year's boobs of summer count for anything, it is that the time has come for our Washington senators--and representatives--to act. Remove baseball's antitrust exemption now.

Baseball's cartel status severely twists the nature of the game. It has emboldened the owners to pick a fight with the players' union in an attempt to artificially cap their salaries and use the resulting funds to subsidize weak franchises that the market won't support.

Without the exemption, the players could have asked the courts to rule on whether the proposed salary cap is an unfair labor practice. Instead, the players' union subjected baseball fans to a strike just as the season was heating up. Now there will be no Matt Williams chasing Roger Maris' home run tally. No Cleveland Indians in the playoffs. No World Series. Amazing.

With million-dollar salaries and billion-dollar television deals, the idea that baseball is not a business is simply ludicrous. In the end, baseball is a business no different than football, basketball, and hockey, none of which is exempt from antitrust regs.

In a free market, owners would have to run their franchises as businesses, not ego-satisfying toys. Mediocre players would have to stop whining about their seven-digit salaries. And fans would have to watch teams move from Montreal or Pittsburgh to Phoenix or Tampa/St. Pete. With the 1994 season called on account of greed, the message is clear: Yank the antitrust exemption and let baseball get back to its business--entertaining the fans.

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