As first reported by Evan Drellich of The Athletic, Harry Marino, Executive Director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, sent an in-depth response to the United States Senate Judiciary’s letter dated June 28, 2022, requesting information regarding Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption and how it affects minor league baseball players.
The letter notes that other leagues, including the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and National Hockey League, do not have a general antitrust exemption like Major League Baseball. Marino wrote, “[t]he American people, through Congress, have never expressed an affirmative desire to exemption Major League Baseball from [antitrust] laws.”
“[B]aseball players and fans alike continue to lose out on the benefits of competition in increasingly distressing ways.” Marino specifically noted that Major League Baseball team owners collude on Minor League player pay and limit the number of Minor League teams.
Regarding the uniform player contract, which is allowed because of the antitrust exemption and Minor League players are required to sign, Marino notes multiple issues, including:
Players are required to work year-round, yet paid seasonally;
Players are controlled for seven seasons by the team that drafts them;
Players are forced to sign away their name, image, and likeness; and
Major League Baseball owners colluding on a pay scale for athletes, which leads to an annual salary between $4,800 and $15,400.
In summary, the uniform player contract limits a Minor League player’s right to negotiate for better living conditions and better wages, which is anticompetitive and would be illegal without the exemption.
As for international athletes, Marino wrote that the issues for international Minor League players are issues of labor law. However, the uniform player contract exacerbates issues for international athletes due to language barriers and a lack of pay during spring training and extended spring training.
In the end, Marino called for the end of Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption and to repeal the Save America’s Pastime Act, which exempts Major League Baseball from federal minimum wage and overtime laws. “Most Minor League players are living below the federal poverty level for one simple reason: baseball’s unique antitrust exemption prevents them from obtaining fair compensation,” Marino wrote.
It is clear that Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption reverberates across Minor League Baseball. Under the current system, a Minor League Player’s ability to negotiate a fair wage via lengthy initial contracts, a low pay scale, and seasonal pay. The ball is now in the United States Senate’s court to help Minor League players by ending the exemption. Until then, the system will continue.