In 1925, baseball great Ty Cobb said, “The great trouble with baseball today is that most of its players are in the game for the money that’s in it—not for the love of it, the excitement of it, [or] the thrill of it.”
Eighty-one years later, many fans would label Cobb a visionary for having foreseen the major role that money would play not only in Major League Baseball, but in all of professional sports. With high salaries, ticket prices, and profits, professional sports are no longer just a game, but a big business worth billions of dollars. Accordingly, as the financial interests of professional sports have become primary, leagues have been forced to deal with many of our nation’s business regulations.
Like many other sectors of the national economy, professional sports have faced antitrust scrutiny—but arguably no other sector has faced a more haphazard application. While every professional league has received some degree of antitrust inquiry, courts have treated antitrust challenges to the five major professional sports differently. The Supreme Court gave Major League Baseball, the first professional sport to face an antitrust inquiry, an antitrust exemption in 1922. The Court’s treatment of baseball has proven to be an anomaly, however, as the Court has subsequently been unwilling to extend similar protection to other sports.