Shut Out?: Minor League Baseball's Second-Class Treatment - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Shut Out?: Minor League Baseball’s Second-Class Treatment

Shut Out?: Minor League Baseball’s Second-Class Treatment

Often taught in Legislation and Regulation classes to illustrate the strength of the judicial doctrine of stare decisis, Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption has real effects on its minor league players.1 While Minor League Baseball’s status under the antitrust laws remains unclear, recent judicial decisions have given indications that it is up to Congress to make a definitive determination.2 Decided in 1972, Flood v. Kuhn upheld a line of cases exempting Major League Baseball, unlike other major sports, from the United States’ antitrust laws.3 Congress responded to Flood by enacting the Curt Flood Act of 1998, narrowly subjecting Major League Baseball to the country’s antitrust laws.4

The judiciary most recently addressed Baseball’s status vis-á-vis the antitrust laws in Miranda v. Selig, when the court acknowledged that owners of minor league teams—backed by Major League Baseball—“should not be afforded carte blanche to restrict the pay and mobility of minor league players without answering to the federal antitrust laws that apply to the employment of major league baseball players…”, though the court held such arguments to be within the province of Congress, rather than the judiciary.5 Congress addressed this issue from a labor law perspective in its 2018 spending bill, exempting minor league baseball players from the minimum wage and overtime standards of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).6

Thorny issues populate the debate over minor league pay. Commissioner Manfred rose a few of these issues during an interview, notably that of line-drawing and what minor leaguers should be paid for.7 The Commissioner highlighted that much of the time spent working in Minor League Baseball is unstructured—players often spending time training on their own and working during what some would consider off hours.8

While it would undoubtedly be difficult to account for this time, critics of the Commissioner and MLB’s stance on minor league pay note that players’ spending extra time preparing for work constitutes work.9 The Commissioner is careful to note, that such time is spent preparing, rather than working.10  Such arguments may highlight the ways in which America’s pastime differs from other sports and occupations. Such differences could also illustrate why the Court initially exempted MLB from antitrust laws. These differences may also result in the continued disparate treatment of MLB by Congress and the courts.

  1. Minor league baseball players are paid an estimated $7,500 per year. Tom Goldman, Fight Against Low, Low Pay in Minor League Baseball Continues Despite New Obstacles, NPR (Aug. 3, 2018, 5:38 PM), [] This salary often results in players buying on-sale meals from mall food courts, rationing the food to serve as two meals. Brandon Sneed, This Is What It’s Like To Chase Your Pro Baseball Dreams…For 12 Bucks An Hour, Bleacher Report: B.R. Mag (Apr. 3, 2017), []

  2. See Miranda v. Selig, No. 14-CV-05349-HSG, 2015 WL 5357854, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2015), aff’d, 860 F.3d 1237 (9th Cir. 2017).

  3. See Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258 (1972).

  4. Gary R. Roberts, A Brief Appraisal of the Curt Flood Act of 1998 From the Minor League Perspective, 9 Marquette Sports L. J. 413 (1999).

  5. Miranda v. Selig, No. 14-CV-05349-HSG, 2015 WL 5357854, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2015), aff’d, 860 F.3d 1237 (9th Cir. 2017).

  6. Maury Brown, Minimum Wage Exemption Is The Culmination Of A Battle Over MLB And Minor League Economics, Forbes (Mar. 26, 2018, 7:00 AM), []; Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-141 (2018).

  7. See Levi Weaver, On minor-league pay, MLB’s stance doesn’t line up with the facts, The Athletic (Apr. 4, 2018), []

  8. See id.

  9. See id.

  10. See id.

Bernard Olshansky

Bernie Olshansky is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal. He is also the Vice President of the Fordham Law Food Society. Bernie holds a B.A. in Law, Societies and Justice from the University of Washington.