San Jose sues MLB for 'conspiracy' to deprive city of team

Hannah Foslien

San Jose city council members felt they had no choice but to sue, but MLB is calling that an "unfounded attack" on the structure of the league.

The city of San Jose filed an antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball Tuesday, accusing the league of a "blatant conspiracy" against the city's attempts to land the Oakland Athletics, reports John Woolfolk of the Mercury News.

The lawsuit challenges the 91-year exemption to antitrust laws granted to MLB by Congress, noting, according to the newspaper's report, "Modern baseball is squarely within the realm of interstate commerce. MLB Clubs ply their wares nationwide, games are broadcast throughout the country on satellite TV and radio, as well as cable channels, and MLB Clubs have fan bases that span from coast to coast."

At issue is that San Jose is covered the by San Francisco Giants' territorial rights, which date back to the early 1990s when a plan was hatched to move the Giants to the South Bay. When no deal could be reached for a ballpark, the Giants remained in San Francisco and built AT&T Park instead.

Making this murkier is that The Oakland Athletics agreed at that time to allow the Giants the rights to Santa Clara County, though they later argued it was contingent on the Giants actually moving there. Now, when San Jose hopes to bring the Athletics south from Oakland, but the Giants are using those territorial rights to block the move of their Bay Area rival.

After the lawsuit was filed, many of the San Jose City Council members released statements. Ash Kalra said MLB has given San Jose no choice but to sue, via the Mercury News:

"The lack of response from Major League Baseball has been extremely disrespectful to the efforts our city and community have made in creating an attractive environment for the Athletics, particularly since the team's ownership agrees that San Jose, the Capital of Silicon Valley, is the ideal location for their great organization."

MLB, however, is dismissing the merits of the lawsuit. Executive Vice President for Economics and League Affairs Rob Manfred responded to the suit in a statement released by the league Tuesday, saying the lawsuit is an "unfounded attack" on the structure of the league:

"In considering the issues related to the Oakland Athletics, Major League Baseball has acted in the best interests of our fans, our communities and the league. The lawsuit is an unfounded attack on the fundamental structures of a professional sports league. It is regrettable that the city has resorted to litigation that has no basis in law or in fact."

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