Major League Baseball’s long-standing exemption from antitrust law prevents the city of San Jose from overcoming objections to relocation of the Oakland Athletic’s to San Jose on antitrust grounds. But a federal judge Friday did keep alive the city’s contract interference claims. U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte dismissed San Jose’s antitrust claims against MLB, but not all hope is lost. Whyte did allow the city to pursue its claim that MLB and the commissioner interfered with the city’s contract between San Jose and the A’s to provide land for a downtown ballpark.
The Oakland A’s have been in Oakland’s Coliseum since 1968 and before that played in Kansas City and even earlier the team was founded in Philadelphia (1901).
The Coliseum is the oldest park in major league baseball and fan attendance at games has plummeted.
For several years the team has considered alternative locations and in 2009 that considered relocating in Fremont and San Jose. The Fremont plan fizzled.
But San Jose is in the territory MLB granted to the San Francisco Giants in the 1990s and the team has consistently opposed the A’s move to San Jose, fearing it would eat into their attendance.
Whyte pointed to a trio of Supreme Court decisions, dating back to 1922, that have allowed MLB to maintain an exemption from antitrust law for the business of baseball.
But Whyte did find that allegations in the complaint are sufficient to state a claim for “tortuous interference with contract.” He allowed the city to continue to pursue that claim.
It’s not over until it is really over.
Case: City of San Jose v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, No. C13-2787RMW