Durbin Responds To MLB Commissioner Manfred

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today released the following statement in response to today’s letter from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred:

“It is reasonable to question the premise that MLB is treating the Minor Leaguers fairly. Commissioner Manfred’s response to our bipartisan request for information raises more questions than it answers, and the discrepancies between today’s letter and the reality that minor league players are experiencing reinforce the importance of the Committee’s bipartisan review of the century-old baseball antitrust exemption. We need to make sure MLB is stepping up to the plate when it comes to fair treatment of players and communities, which is why the Judiciary Committee is planning an upcoming hearing on the issue.”

On July 18, Durbin—along with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee; U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Subcommittee on The Constitution; and U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights—sent a bipartisan request to the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball for information regarding the impact of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) antitrust exemption on minor league players and teams.  In a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the Senators sought information about the impact of this unique exemption on a range of issues affecting Minor League players, including contract rights, team contraction, lockouts and work stoppages, and treatment of international prospects.

On June 28, the Senators sent a similar bipartisan request for information to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve working conditions for minor league baseball players. In a fourteen-page letter responding to the Senators, Executive Director Harry Marino denounced what he called the “Minor League Conspiracy,” an anticompetitive agreement between Major League Baseball’s 30 owners to both “suppress Minor League player wages” and “artificially limit the number of Minor League teams.” Marino noted that the owners’ openly anticompetitive conduct would plainly violate federal antitrust laws if they applied.

The June letter followed a Department of Justice statement of interest in the minor league contraction antitrust case Nostalgic Partners, LLC v. The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.  In its statement of interest, the Department called the antitrust exemption an “aberration” that “does not rest on any substantive policy interests that justify players and fans losing out on the benefits of competition.”