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The Sovereign Nation of Baseball: Why Federal Law Does Not Apply to "America's Game" and How It Got That Way
Villanova Sports & Entertainment Law Journal (2008)
  • Mitchell J Nathanson, Villanova
This article examines the relationship between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the law and discusses how it has evolved that MLB has become unofficially exempt from federal law on a wide range of issues due to its unique status within American society. Although its antitrust exemption is well-known, MLB has, in practice, not been subject to the forces of federal law in many other contexts as well, setting it apart from most other corporations and organizations – even other professional sports leagues such as the NFL, NHL and NBA. As a result of the wide berth provided to MLB by the federal courts and legislature, MLB has largely been free to govern itself pursuant to its own definition of what is in “the best interest of baseball” – denying its players even the most basic and fundamental due process rights, arbitrarily punishing those it has labeled as “rogue” owners, and willfully violating federal law that has applied to it for decades in theory but not in practice, in the process. From its inception in 1876 to the present, MLB has been, in effect, an extra-judicial entity, a society unto itself, answerable to no one in all but the most extreme circumstances. It is this atmosphere of de-facto sovereignty that has led to the culture of corruption identified within the recently released Mitchell Report, which beneath the fireworks over the names of the players identified within the report, quietly and systematically details MLB’s decades-long disregard for federal law. Such disregard eventually provided a fertile breeding ground for the corporate malfeasance that permitted MLB to ignore both federal law and the overwhelming evidence of illegal drug use taking place within its locker rooms and to, in fact, encourage it throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s. In the end, as the Mitchell Report highlights, in MLB it was the system itself that was corrupt, with the identified players merely symptoms of the problem rather than the problem in and of themselves. This article examines how things progressed to this point.
  • baseball,
  • sports,
  • antitrust,
  • labor,
  • due process,
  • extra-judicial,
  • Mitchell Report,
  • steroids
Publication Date
Fall 2008
Citation Information
Mitchell J Nathanson. "The Sovereign Nation of Baseball: Why Federal Law Does Not Apply to "America's Game" and How It Got That Way" Villanova Sports & Entertainment Law Journal (2008)
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