Rob Manfred sends a 17-page letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee defending MLB’s antitrust exemption

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COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK – JULY 24: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks during the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Clark Sports Center on July 24, 2022 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred defended the league’s antitrust exemption in a 17-page letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. In the letter, Manfred argued that MLB’s antitrust exemption “made a significant difference in the lives of minor league players.”

The letter comes after the Senate Judiciary Committee requested more information on MLB’s antitrust exemption in July. The committee is studying how the league’s antitrust exemption is affecting a number of areas of the game, including working conditions for lower-league players.

Manfred touched on this issue in Friday’s letter, arguing that the antitrust exemption was a good thing for minor league players and that it helped bring baseball to communities “that otherwise couldn’t economically support a professional baseball team.”

Manfred argued that baseball would be less accessible and more expensive for fans if the antitrust exemption were removed.

“Without the waiver, there would be baseball in far fewer communities, and without the significant subsidization of the MLB, the cost of attending a minor league baseball game would be significantly higher in many places.”

MLB faced criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in 2021 after the league dropped 40 minor league teams as part of a minor league restructuring. Sanders has routinely spoken out against Manfred and MLB.

However, Sanders is not a member of the committee dealing with MLB’s antitrust exemption. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin chairs the committee, which also includes Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Utah Senator Mike Lee. Durbin and Blumenthal are members of the Democratic Party and Grassley and Lee represent the republics, making them a bipartisan group.

Manfred also argued that the league “spends $108,000 per capita on minor league player compensation and benefits.” He found that 58 percent of minor league players receive bonuses of at least $100,000. The players who do not receive these bonuses “generally have very short baseball careers and transition to other careers in their early 20’s and are true seasonal employees who are free to find other employment or continue their education during the off-season. ‘ by Manfred.

MLB considers minor leagues to be temporary or seasonal workers. Minor league players are not compensated during baseball’s offseason and made only $3,000 to $7,500 in a single year in 2015. Minor league salaries have since risen, but many players are still not making minimum wage. The antitrust exemption prevents minor league players from playing baseball elsewhere to supplement their income.

Manfred said minor league players receive health and housing benefits, meals and tuition reimbursement, which he argued are “benefits that are unavailable to most college-age employees in this country when they enter the workforce.” enter”. Manfred said he believes players could lose those benefits if MLB’s antitrust exemption is lifted.

Rob Manfred criticized statements on minor league conditions

Harry Marino, executive director at Advocates for Minor Leaguers, called some of Manfred’s arguments “surprising” in a statement to Yahoo Sports.

“When it comes to the impact of baseball’s antitrust exemption on minor league players and fans, Major League Baseball fails to get its story straight.

“Just nine days ago, Commissioner Rob Manfred said, ‘I can’t think of any place where the exemption would really make sense, other than in franchise relocation.’ This morning, Manfred said otherwise, claiming that the baseball exemption “has significantly improved the lives of minor league players, including their conditions of employment, and has allowed minor league affiliate operators to offer professional baseball in certain communities that.” would otherwise not be possible to economically support a professional baseball team.’

“Put simply, both statements cannot be true. Given that MLB continues to pay poverty-level wages to most minor league players and recently eliminated 40 minor league teams, the positions it has held today are surprising — to say the least. We intend to thoroughly investigate the many allegations contained in today’s 17-page letter and will respond substantively in the coming days.”

Marino said Advocates for Minor Leaguers will review Manfred’s letter and provide additional replies over the next few days.

This story will be updated.

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