Ted Cruz Threatens End to Antitrust Immunity for MLB

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Ted Cruz, Republican Senators Go to Bat Against Major League Baseball by Suggesting End to Antitrust Immunity

Sen. Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Friday joined the fray in the GOP’s ongoing battle with Major League Baseball (MLB), suggesting that the league should be stripped of its immunity from federal antitrust regulations for its response to Georgia’s new voting measures.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Friday announced that because of the Republican-led effort to change voting laws in the Peach State, the league would be moving its annual all-star game out of Atlanta. The 98-page bill—which was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) Thursday—made sweeping changes to how the state will administer elections in the future, including a strict photo ID requirements for mail-in voting ballots, that many experts believe is aimed at suppressing turnout.

The MLB move was met with immediate backlash by GOP lawmakers, with several proposing retribution against the league.

“In light of MLB ‘s stance to undermine election integrity laws, I have instructed my staff to begin drafting legislation to remove Major League Baseball’s federal antitrust exception,” South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan wrote, adding that “any organization that abuses its power to oppose secure elections deserves increased scrutiny under the law.”

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah similarly said it was “time for the federal government to stop granting special privileges to specific, favored corporations—especially those that punish their political opponents.”

It didn’t take long for Cruz to launch his opening salvo, confirming that he and Lee had already decided to join forces in making the league pay for opposing their party’s voting measure.

A few hours later, the Texas senator tweeted a link identifying the MLB’s official corporate sponsors, saying that all of them “pressured” the league to “pull the All Star game out of Atlanta.”

“Do all of them oppose voter ID?” he wrote. “Are all of them willing to be the woke enforcers of the corrupt Democratic Party? And do all hate the 75 [million] who voted for Trump?”

Georgia-based corporations Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines have both publicly criticized Georgia’s latest voting bill as well.

While it is possible for Congress to end the MLB’s antitrust immunity, it seems like an unlikely scenario, as the GOP currently lacks majorities in either legislative chamber and, of course, currently does not occupy the White House.

The MLB’s exemption dates back to a unanimous 1922 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc. v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs. In an order penned by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Court affirmed a lower appeals court ruling that the baseball leagues did not engage in interstate commerce as it was defined by the Sherman Act because the act of playing a game falls outside the common understanding of traditional trade and commerce.

Undeterred by the GOP threats, Commissioner Manfred stood by the decision in a statement Friday, saying the decision to move the game out of Atlanta was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” he added.

Gov. Brian Kemp defended Georgia’s voting laws on Friday and Saturday.  He said they were in many ways more generous than the laws of other states, including New York, where Major League Baseball is headquartered.

[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.