In a note entitled “Will Maple Bats Splinter Baseball’s Antitrust Exemptions? The Rule of Reason Steps to the Plate” published in the Widener Law Journal
, Vol. 18, No. 3, 2009, Harrisburg campus student Steve Matzura writes about the antitrust implications of drafting a rule restricting the use of maple bats in an effort to address safety. Michael McCann, an Associate Professor of Law at Vermont Law School and the “Sports and the Law” columnist for SI.com, discusses Matzura’s article, calling it “provocative” in a post on Sports Law Blog
Maple bats are considered more prone to shattering upon impact with the baseball, and that has led MLB to consider new rules designed to eliminate or restrict their use. As Matzura writes, however, “Any such restriction of the popular sports equipment may cause bat manufacturers, and perhaps players, to initiate an antitrust suit against MLB for an unfair restraint of trade.” He further notes, “The comment’s analysis contemplates two judicially-created antitrust exemptions – the baseball exemption and the nonstatutory labor exemption – that almost entirely absolve MLB of liability for instituting a league rule even if the rule affects economic competition. The comment proposes that courts can interpret the exemptions narrowly to render them inapplicable, thereby reaching the merits to conduct a ‘rule of reason’ analysis.”
Matzura credits Professor Michael J. Cozzillio
, with whom he took a sports law class with over the previous summer, for turning him on to the idea. “I spoke with Professor Cozzillio about possible topics, and he actually suggested that I look into the maple bat safety problem that had reached its boiling point last year. I was well aware of the problem because I watched a lot of baseball during the summer, as the Phillies had an exciting year and won the World Series,” he says of his decision to write on the topic.
“Although antitrust law in baseball and sports equipment restrictions have been written on extensively before, this was a new angle that dealt with a current issue,” says Matzura, adding, “Moreover, I was familiar with all the applicable law at that point from the sports law class, which made writing the paper much easier during the school year.”
“Will Maple Bats Splinter Baseball’s Antitrust Exemptions? The Rule of Reason Steps to the Plate” is available from SSRN