Judge Ronald Whyte reached a decision in the Northern District of California wherein he upheld Major League Baseball’s (MLB) exemption holding that the power to relocate a baseball team franchise is within the business of baseball and that the business of baseball remains exempt from federal antitrust laws. The lawsuit brought by the city of San Jose claimed that the Oakland Athletics should be allowed to relocate from its current home in Oakland, housed at the Oakland Coliseum, to a new stadium in San Jose, Calif. The new stadium has not been built.
Under the MLB constitution, each baseball team is assigned a particular geographic area. In this case, the Athletics operate in the territory consisting of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. In 2011, the A’s signed a 2-year option contract to purchase land in San Jose for the purpose of building a new stadium there. The stadium would be the new home of the Oakland A’s. In addition, there was an option for a third year on the contract for an additional $25,000. San Jose is outside of the Athletics’ operating territory. Allowing the A’s to relocate would require the majority approval by MLB’s team owners.
San Jose argued that MLB violated federal antitrust law by intentionally delaying the owners’ vote for four years, or until after the A’s option to purchase the land in San Jose had expired. This would effectively prevent the Oakland Athletics from moving to San Jose. In addition, another complication is the fact that San Jose is within the geographical territory of the San Francisco Giants.