A trio of Republican senators introduced legislation on Tuesday to strip Major League Baseball of the antitrust protection it has held for nearly a century, citing the league’s decision earlier this month to pull its All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of a new Georgia voting law.
The legislative push is being spearheaded by Utah Sen. Mike Lee, and backed by Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, respectively of Texas and Missouri.
“We’re standing here today to say Major League Baseball should have to play by the same rules,” said Cruz during a joint press briefing announcing the proposal, noting that other major sports leagues like the NFL and NBA don’t enjoy the same federal protection.
“If they’re gonna play partisan enforcer, they shouldn’t expect to see special goodies from Washington when they are dishonestly acting to favor one party against the other, and doing so in a way that is hurting thousands of small businesses in the city of Atlanta, many of which are owned by African-Americans,” he continued.
Georgia last month approved a slate of changes to its voting laws that critics have said restrict democracy — and President Biden has repeatedly baselessly likened to modern-day “Jim Crow.”
Among other things, the updated regulations require identification for absentee voting and forbids political organizations giving would-be voters food and beverages as they wait to cast their ballots.
The new law also allows counties to expand in-person voting hours past an existing 5 p.m. cutoff on early-voting days, adds a mandatory new early-voting day and gives counties the option of opening for voting on the two Sundays preceding an election.
After Biden told ESPN that he would “strongly support” MLB relocating its July All-Star Game in protest, the league followed through, shifting the game to Denver, even though Colorado’s voting laws are arguably more restrictive than Georgia’s.
Lee noted Tuesday that MLB’s antitrust protections were put in place by the Supreme Court in 1922, with no legislative input.
“It’s important to remember that this exemption was created from whole cloth by the Supreme Court 99 years ago,” he said. “That means that this exemption never saw the light of day in Congress. It was not put in place legislatively, and it is a distinctively legislative decision.”
Hawley said that antitrust laws remain as vital now as they were when MLB was granted its carve-out.
“A century ago, massive corporations, the railroads, US Steel attempted to amass economic power and succeeded. They attempted to amass political power and, for a time, succeeded,” he said. “And we know what the solution to that is: The solution is, you break them up. The solution is trust-busting. And that’s exactly what needs to occur today.”
It’s unclear how much traction the proposal could gain in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, warned that large corporate entities would “invite serious consequences” by taking partisan political stands, but did not specify the nature of those consequences.
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