Sen. Mike Lee didn’t like that Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game out of Georgia to protest that state’s new voting law.
He saw it as a big corporation punishing political opponents.
Now he wants to retaliate.
The Utah Republican joined GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri on Tuesday to promote new legislation that would strip MLB’s special antitrust exemption.
“When they act in this way, when they made this announcement about the All-Star Game, my immediate thought is this is the behavior of a monopolist,” said Lee, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee. “They lack competition, and they have enjoyed that lack of competition for 99 years because of a judicial mistake.”
This exemption is unique in the sports world. The National Basketball Association and the National Football League don’t have one, for example.
In 1922, the Supreme Court decided that baseball didn’t count as interstate commerce, since the games are played in one place, despite the fact that teams travel for such contests and the games are broadcast beyond state lines.
The exemption allows MLB to take actions other leagues can’t, such as restrict where a team can relocate or coordinate on the pay of minor league players.
Lee pounced on the exemption after MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced April 2 that the league would move from Atlanta its All-Star Game and draft “to demonstrate our values as a sport.”
The July 13 midsummer classic will now take place at Coors Field in Denver.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans,” Manfred said in a statement, “and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
Other corporations with a major presence in Georgia, such as Coca-Cola and Delta, also have criticized the law. Those moves have enraged Republicans.
Georgia had passed a sweeping new voting law that, among other changes, makes absentee voting harder, adds new ID requirements and limits the use of drop boxes.
Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have argued the bill would restrict voting and is based on a falsehood — that there were problems with the 2020 election in Georgia. There’s no evidence that there were problems.
Republicans have countered that the measure is about election security and that Democrats have exaggerated its potential to impact turnout. They have also strongly resisted criticism from corporations.
On the same day Manfred made his announcement, Lee tweeted about MLB’s antitrust exemption.
“It’s time for the federal government to stop granting special privileges to specific, favored corporations — especially those that punish their political opponents.”
Cruz said MLB acted as “the political enforcer for Democrats in Washington.”
Lee, Cruz and Hawley plan to release their new legislation Wednesday.
Lee said he doesn’t anticipate a rival league will challenge MLB and that it is not his goal. He described the bill as “legislative housekeeping.”