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Part of Baseball's Antitrust Exemption Is Overturned

Labor: President Clinton signs the Curt Flood Act of 1998, which puts baseball on par with other pro sports.

October 28, 1998| From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Clinton signed a bill Tuesday overturning part of baseball's 70-year-old antitrust exemption, putting baseball on a par with other professional sports on labor matters.

Clinton signed the Curt Flood Act of 1998 without fanfare in the Oval Office. Congress approved it unanimously earlier this month.

The new law overrides part of a 1922 Supreme Court ruling that exempted baseball from antitrust laws on grounds that it was not interstate commerce. That exemption deprived baseball players of protections enjoyed by other professional athletes and the players' association blamed that for contributing to baseball's eight work stoppages since 1972, including the disastrous 232-day strike in 1994-95.

"It is sound policy to treat the employment matters of major league baseball players under the antitrust laws in the same way such matters are treated for athletes in other professional sports," Clinton said.

The Major League Baseball Players Association said it was grateful for the new law.

"There is now no doubt that players will be able to consider antitrust litigation as an option in any future dispute," union head Donald Fehr said. "Members of Congress came to understand that baseball fans would ultimately be the real beneficiaries of this act."

The president said it is "especially fitting" that the law was named for Flood, who in October 1970 refused to be traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies and battled for the right to free agency all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him. Flood died of throat cancer in January 1997.

The legislation--which took three sessions of Congress to pass--revokes the antitrust exemption only for labor relations, not for matters involving relocation, league expansion or the minor leagues.

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