Appeals Court Reject’s San Jose’s Antitrust Complaint Against MLB
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected the city of San Jose’s antitrust complaint against Major League Baseball, saying the commissioner’s office operated within its scope in delaying a decision on whether approve the Oakland Athletics’ potential move to San Jose.
The appeals court said that baseball’s exemption from antitrust laws “barred San Jose’s antitrust claim regarding franchise relocation” because “antitrust claims against Major League Baseball’s franchise relocation policies are in the heartland of those precluded by Flood’s rationale.”
Flood refers to the landmark 1972 Flood v. Kuhn Supreme Court decision that affirmed baseball’s exemption from antitrust laws.
Under MLB’s rules, each of the league’s 30 teams play their games within an operating territory – which leads to the maddening blackout rules that drive fans nuts. That operating territory also governs where teams can play their games.
For obvious economic reasons, the A’s seek to move from Oakland to San Jose, which falls under the Giants’ operating territory – which is forbidden unless approved by 75 percent of MLB teams, as the court notes.
Baseball has been slow to act on the request after setting up a relocation committee six years ago, forcing San Jose to file a lawsuit that alleges baseball is violating federal and state antitrust laws.
The district court sided with baseball, which was affirmed Thursday by the Ninth Circuit – citing a ton of case law.
“Like Casey, San Jose has struck out here,” the appeals court concluded. “The scope of the Supreme Court’s holding in Flood plainly extends to questions of franchise relocation. San Jose is, at bottom, asking us to deem Flood wrongly decided, and that we cannot do. Only Congress and the Supreme Court are empowered to question Flood’s continued vitality, and with it, the fate of baseball’s singular and historic exemption from the antitrust laws.”
Outgoing commissioner Bud Selig was pleased:
Selig on San Jose ruling: “When you win, you’re always happy….It’s good for baseball.”
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) January 15, 2015
One of the A’s owners had this to say: