Major League Baseball, one of the nation’s largest corporations, has found itself amidst a new round of antitrust litigation involving the move of the Oakland Athletics baseball team to San Jose, California. According to the latest decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, efforts by Major League Baseball to block the team’s move to San Jose did not violate federal antitrust laws.
In 2010, the City of San Jose sought approval from baseball commissioner Bud Selig to move the Oakland baseball team to their city. Selig denied this request effectively blocking Oakland from moving the baseball team to San Jose. The City of San Jose proceeded to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging that Major League Baseball was denying the rights of baseball clubs and cities to negotiate relocations and stadium deals in violation of federal antitrust laws.
Congress passed the first federal antitrust laws (including the Sherman Act, Federal Trade Commission Act and Clayton Act) to protect economic liberty and free trade by proscribing unlawful mergers and business dealings. Private parties, like Major League Baseball, may bring private causes of action against unlawful monopolies and business practices which restrain free trade.
U.S. District Court Judge Ronald M. Whyte initially denied San Jose’s claims citing a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that created a federal antitrust exemption for baseball clubs on the basis that baseball clubs were not engaged in “interstate commerce.” The City of San Jose appealed the lower court ruling. Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling that Major League Baseball did not violate federal antitrust laws by barring the team’s move to San Jose. The Oakland A’s announced last summer the signing of a ten year deal to remain in Oakland.
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