The Department of Justice filed a request Wednesday for three former minor league baseball teams to sue Major League Baseball. They were unable to retain their affiliation.
MLB sued the three teams. They were among 43 that lost affiliation after the league reduced the minors to just 120 teams in 2020.
MLB requested that the lawsuit be dropped, citing an antitrust exemption. The Justice Department asked for a narrow definition of the exemption by asking the U.S. District Court to New York.
ESPN reached out to MLB for comment.
The DOJ's request is the latest in a growing scrutiny of the century-old Supreme Court ruling given to the league. Senator Bernie Sanders, Vermont, introduced legislation in March that would strip MLB of the exemption completely. Sens. The bill was also introduced by Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah.
Baseball is the only major American sport to have an antitrust exemption. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1922 that MLB could suppress wages and make business decisions without following anti-monopoly rules, MLB has used the exemption to operate since then.
The exemption would have prevented teams from moving cities without consulting the league. Minor league players are also prohibited from applying for opportunities in other leagues by the antitrust exemption. Advocate groups have claimed that minor league salaries will rise if players are more competitive, which is impossible with the exemption.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court's 2021 ruling, challenged the legality of baseball's antitrust exemption. He cited the market changes since 1922. Because baseball was a series, and not interstate trade, the Supreme Court said that it wasn't subjected to antitrust laws.
This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court twice, in 1953 and 1972.