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Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate GOP trio targets Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption

Whatever one thinks of MLB's antitrust exemption, Republicans' retributive tactics are tough to defend.


In response to Georgia Republicans' new voter-suppression law, Major League Baseball decided an official response was warranted: the league pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta, moving the exhibition to Denver, where voting laws are more progressive.

As we've discussed, GOP officials could've taken the opportunity to reverse course and end their attack on voting rights, but Republicans instead lashed out at MLB. Donald Trump, for example, called for a boycott of Major League Baseball, which was a position quickly endorsed by the Republican National Committee and several GOP members of Congress. A handful of Republican lawmakers vowed to target the league's antitrust exemption.

Evidently, they were serious. Forbes reported this morning:

A group of Senate Republicans on Tuesday announced a bill to break up Major League Baseball's monopoly by eliminating their special antitrust exemption, specifically citing MLB's decision to move an All-Star game out of Georgia to protest a GOP election reform bill. The idea for the bill, which is being introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), was first floated on Twitter in the immediate aftermath of the MLB's decision.

In a situation like this one, it's worth pausing to separate a proposal from the motivations behind a proposal.

Because on the surface, Congress taking a look at antitrust exemptions is entirely worthwhile. In fact, as the Forbes report added, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), among others, has expressed skepticism about Major League Baseball's exemption.

But just below the surface, Sens. Cruz, Hawley, and Lee introduced this measure specifically because MLB had the audacity to take a stand in support of voting rights and respond to an injustice with a symbolic gesture.

As MSNBC's Chris Hayes noted this morning, some Republican officials are "increasingly embracing using state power as an explicit tool to punish specific viewpoints."

Exactly. We're not talking about senators scrambling to address private companies dumping toxic waste into rivers; we're talking about a trio of partisan ideologues upset about a sports league supporting voting rights by moving an exhibition game.

These Republican senators could've tried to defend Georgia's anti-voting law. They also could've made the case for keeping the All-Star game in Atlanta. But for Cruz, Hawley, and Lee, that wouldn't be enough: they chose to use their government offices to retaliate against Major League Baseball because it took a progressive stand.

Some GOP officials have been bold of late in trying to stifle dissent, threatening businesses with retaliatory policy measures if they get in the way of the Republicans' voter-suppression campaign. Whatever one thinks of MLB's existing exemption, such retributive tactics are tough to defend.