A small handful of Republican politicians is garnering an outsized amount of attention by threatening to eliminate baseball's anti-trust exemption. The idea is to punish major-league baseball for punishing Georgia with its decision to yank this year's All-Star Game from Atlanta.
The GOP is striking out, literally and figuratively. But the best part of the story is how Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Representative Marjorie Taylor Green of the Qniverse and others are targeting the wrong team in terms of their own self-interest.
In the highly unlikely event something might happen to MLB's century-old anti-trust exemption, it would be regarded as a major blow to wealthy MLB owner sports monopolists, almost all of whom are Republicans. And many of whom are among the party's chief financial donors.
Conversely and comically, among the beneficiaries would be professional baseball players, who have been tormented by the exemption since it was guaranteed by a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Former star Curt Flood made a heroic stand against in 1972 (although he lost his court case) that would lead to free agency and players' rights were codified in a law bearing his name in 1998. But the exemption survived, to the ongoing dismay of players.
So here's the sweetest irony of the present situation: It was fear of an All-Star boycott by players that was among the main reasons that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the stunning call to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta. Anyone who thinks that a bunch of Republican sports monopolists suddenly woke up with alarm over voter suppression has been snorting the first baseline.
Manfred's reasoning was analyzed Friday in a piece at The Athletic:
"Manfred's primary motivations for the move were sliced differently by various industry sources. Those closest to Manfred suggested that Manfred had 30 reasons to make the move and did not rely on any one factor alone. Others, including people who had been briefed on conversations Manfred has held, pointed to two strong concerns: One, that players could eventually decide to boycott the All-Star Game if it remained in Georgia, which would be a disaster for the sport; and two, that major corporate sponsors could be reticent to continue to support the game if it remained in Atlanta. Coca-Cola and Delta, both major Atlanta-based companies and partners of the Braves, had previously criticized the law."
The report added:
"Even without a boycott, keeping the game in Atlanta could have directly produced difficult and tiresome situations for the players themselves. Players might have been constantly asked about their feelings on holding the game in the state. At the very least, Manfred would not have wanted that negative attention on the sport, although he'll face a different kind now, from proponents of the voter laws."
Perhaps the only certainty is that Republican sports monopolists had no reason to rail against voter-suppression efforts that have been introduced by the GOP not merely in dozens of states, of which Georgia is but one.
As USA Today reported last October in an extensive study of the political leanings of sports owners, there is no ambiguity about what they said they favor.
"USA Today Sports reviewed the political contributions of 183 owners from 161 teams across MLB, MLS, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and the WNBA. The filings show that owners have collectively given at least $14.6 million to federal candidates during the 2019-20 election cycle so far – with nearly 86% of those funds going to Republican candidates and causes.
"USA TODAY Sports found that the 10 largest spenders have accounted for roughly two-thirds of the overall political spending by sports ownership during this election cycle, led by San Francisco Giants owner Charles Johnson, who has given more than $3.25 million. In total, 23 owners have donated $100,000 or more."
The report also quoted sociologist Harry Edwards as saying the political donations exemplify the "ideological disconnect" that remains between predominantly white owners and their Black players.
"These owners standing up and saying 'Black Lives Matter,' and even taking a knee, doesn't mean that they get it," Edwards said. "What shows what they get is where they put their money."
In the case of MLB owners, the place owners put their money is on the Republican side, by a margin or more than 10 to 1, according to USA Today. As to how these donors might receive their beneficiaries eliminating their anti-trust exemption, consider this report at NBC Sports from last May:
"What is still in place, firmly, is Major League Baseball's ability to work to thwart competitors, if any ever arise, and its ability to carve out protected geographic territories for its clubs and anti-competitive contract rights for its clubs. The Rays can't pick up and move to Brooklyn. Jeff Bezos can fund an eight-team upstart league, try to put it in some cities and Major League Baseball can do all manner of things in concert to stop him that no other businesses could do when faced with competitors.
"They can agree to set salaries for scouts or other team employees who are not part of a union across the league and make rules against hiring players from one another. It can also dictate the terms of employment of minor league players and institute a draft which prevents teams from separately negotiating with amateur players. It's an enormously powerful tool that any business would kill to have but which belongs exclusively to baseball. It's a gift, really."