SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge dismissed an antitrust lawsuit filed by minor league players against Major League Baseball and its 30 teams.
U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. ruled Monday the defendants are protected from the legal challenge by the sport’s antitrust exemption, created by the Supreme Court in 1922.
Four former players, Sergio Miranda, Jeffrey Dominguez, Jorge Padilla and Cirilo Cruz, alleged MLB’s reserve clause illegally restricts them to one major league organization exclusively for up to seven years. The vast majority of minor league players earn salaries far below the major league average of more than $4 million, with the minor league minimum $1,100 a month for a five-month season.
The suit was filed in December 2014, and Gilliam granted a motion by MLB’s lawyers to dismiss the case.
“Plaintiffs have a persuasive policy argument that the defendants 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 and, for that matter, all other professional sports leagues,” Gilliam wrote. “But that policy argument must be made to Congress or the Supreme Court.”
The players’ lawyer, Samuel Kornhauser, said he will appeal the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision,” MLB said in a statement.
The 9th Circuit in January found MLB’s antitrust exemption extends broadly to its business practices. That ruling rejected the city of San Jose’s antitrust suit seeking a court order to let the Oakland Athletics move south to a new stadium that would be built in San Jose, which MLB considers territory of the San Francisco Giants.
Gilliam said the 9th Circuit’s reasoning “directly governs the claims at issue in this case” and “there can be no reasonable dispute that the alleged restrictions on the pay and mobility of minor league baseball players fall into to the articulation of the antitrust exemption recognized in City of San Jose.”
San Jose lawyers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.