One point often brought up by those sick of the media coverage of steroids in MLB is the seeming double standard when compared to the treatment given to NFL steroid users. As Joe Posnanski pointed out a few days ago:
One of the arguments that never seems to end is why people seem so put off by steroid use in baseball while seeming more or less untroubled by steroid use in football. Barry Bonds is a pariah, Shawne Merriman does television commercials. Generally, people will say that this is because baseball is a game of numbers — and the perception is that steroid use has forever skewed the numbers — while football is a game of action. Generally, people will say that football is a game of gladiators which makes us less concerned what they use, while we look to see more of ourselves in baseball.
Whatever the reason, it seems clear that baseball players are held to higher standard of duty to the fans and the sport. In football, the players sit out for a few games and seemingly instantly shed the moral opprobrium associated with cheating. Baseball players retain the stigma forever. While this seems unfair, Dave Studeman of THT suggests that there are reasons that baseball should in fact be faced with a greater social burden. While I do not agree with all of his points, one is fairly compelling:
Baseball is the only major sport with an antitrust exemption. In fact, as I understand it, it is virtually the only business with an exemption to the Sherman and Clayton acts, which regulate interstate commerce. Thanks to the 1922 Supreme Court, baseball controls at least the movement of its franchises and is somewhat exempt from labor relation laws. This exemption has been challenged in courts several times, but never repealed.
According to the New York Times, “The Court has never delineated what is covered by the exemption. But it has come to embrace a blanket immunity from Federal court action regarding player movement, franchise shifts, expansion, broadcasting, team ownership, the minor leagues and the amateur draft.” Although there are real questions about the practical impact of the exemption, it is still in place. It still serves as a partial shield from competition and federal oversight….
This lack of transparency and regulation, coupled with the remarkable antitrust exemption, means that everyone involved in Major League Baseball has a unique and particular ethical responsibility. Since there is no competition to keep them honest, the manner in which MLB works with its employees and players, local and national government, other businesses, and with their customers should be held to a higher standard than that of other private enterprises. The antitrust exemption is a privilege, and privileged institutions have higher moral responsibilities.
What do you think? Should the special exemptions in law afforded to MLB hold the institution and its members to a higher moral standard, such that cheating in baseball should be considered more repugnant than the same actions in other sports?
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