Sports News

Supreme court won't hear challenge to baseball antitrust immunity

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to Major League Baseball’s long-standing exemption from U.S. antitrust laws brought by San Jose as part of the California’s city’s effort to become the new home of the Oakland Athletics.

Military F/A-18 Hornet jets fly over a large U.S. flag unfurled on the field during festivities ahead of Game 1 of the MLB World Series baseball championship between the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers in San Francisco, October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

The court’s decision not to take the case means a January appeals court ruling that said San Jose cannot seek a court order allowing the Athletics to move to the city in Silicon Valley remains intact.

The justices declined to hear the case without comment.

The high court decided in 1922 that Major League Baseball was not subject to federal antitrust laws, ruling against a challenge brought by a team from a defunct rival league.

The main obstacle to the proposed move of the Athletics is that another major league team, the San Francisco Giants, holds territorial rights to San Jose, according to the lawsuit.

San Jose sued Major League Baseball and then-league Commissioner Bud Selig in 2013, seeking permission for the move after the league failed to act on its request. A lower court judge rejected the city’s argument, ruling that baseball could withhold its approval for the Athletics to move under the league’s longstanding antitrust exemption.

In its ruling in January, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco also cited Major League Baseball’s unique antitrust status.

The Oakland A’s have struggled with weak ticket sales in the Oakland Coliseum, which the team shares with the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League.

San Jose, the biggest city in affluent Silicon Valley, has longed for a Major League Baseball franchise for years. The city has offered the Athletics land for a baseball park while also pressing the league to have owners of the other teams vote to allow the Athletics to move.

Tired of waiting for a vote, San Jose sued Major League Baseball, saying its “illegal and collusive actions thwarted plaintiffs’ diligent efforts to procure a major league baseball team for Silicon Valley.”

Major League Baseball did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is City of San Jose v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-1252.