Flood v. Kuhn

Flood v. Kuhn (1972) was a significant legal case in the United States that challenged Major League Baseball’s (MLB) antitrust exemption. The case was filed by Curt Flood, a professional baseball player who played for the St. Louis Cardinals at the time. Flood’s lawsuit sought to challenge the reserve clause, which bound players to their teams indefinitely even after their contracts expired.

The reserve clause was a long-standing practice in professional baseball that allowed teams to retain exclusive rights to their players, effectively preventing them from negotiating with other teams and controlling their salaries. Flood argued that the reserve clause violated antitrust laws, specifically the Sherman Antitrust Act, which prohibits certain business practices that restrict competition.

Curt Flood is accompanied by Allen Zerman, an attorney, on their arrival from St. Louis, on the first leg of a trip that may take Flood to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the baseball reserve clause.

The case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled against Flood in a 5-3 decision. The majority opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, held that the Court was bound by precedent established in previous cases, particularly the 1922 case of Federal Baseball Club v. National League. In that case, the Court had ruled that baseball was not engaged in interstate commerce and, therefore, was not subject to federal antitrust laws.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Flood v. Kuhn upheld the reserve clause and maintained MLB’s exemption from antitrust laws. However, the case brought significant attention to the issue and sparked public debate about the fairness of the reserve clause. It paved the way for future legal challenges to the antitrust exemption and ultimately contributed to the eventual abolition of the reserve clause in professional baseball.

Curt Flood and attorney Allen Zerman

Flood’s efforts were influential in shaping public opinion and paving the way for subsequent legal challenges. While Flood did not achieve a legal victory in his case, his activism and the attention generated by the lawsuit contributed to the eventual dismantling of the reserve clause and the establishment of free agency in professional sports, which allowed players greater control over their careers and salaries.

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