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Trump Lawyer Sues MLBPA for $1B

The lawsuit blames MLB and the union for moving the All-Star game over Georgia voting law

Kris LaGrange's picture
Jun 02, 2021

The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and the league are facing a $1.1 billion lawsuit from a group of small business owners over the league’s decision to move the 2021 All Star game out of Atlanta following the state’s passage of a restrictive voting bill.

The move, which took place in April, was announced by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred after Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a bill that made it tougher to vote, limited voting hours, and made it illegal to provide water or food to people waiting in line to vote.

“Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement announcing the decision. "I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft."

In their lawsuit, the business owners who are suing under the Job Creators Network, claim that the league and the union violated a 150-year-old federal civil rights law designed to combat the Ku Klux Klan by "purposefully and maliciously" punishing small business owners by moving the game instead of by seeking relief for state lawmakers. Their lawsuit suggests that the relocation is racially insensitive given that Atlanta has a much higher black population than Denver and that there are about 7.5 times more black-owned small businesses in Georgia over Colorado. They also accused the league and the union of engaging in “outrageous” and “dishonest” conduct to deprive Georgia citizens of their Constitutional safeguards, which they say reflects the “punitive impact on employment” caused by the game’s relocation. The Job Creators Network also accused MLB and MLBPA of unlawfully interfering with contracts that were predicated on playing the game, saying that they “maliciously and illegally cut off” the conditions necessary for these contracts to be fulfilled. The lawsuit describes the removal of the game from the Atlanta area as “intimidation.”

The lawsuit is seeking to return the All-Star Game to Truist Park in the suburbs of Atlanta, as well as $100 million for damages and $1 billion in punitive damages. The lawsuit claims that losses from moving the game have been “staggering,” including having more than 8,000 hotel reservations canceled. About 41,000 people were expected to attend the game. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and names both Manfred and MLBPA President Executive Director Tony Clark as defendants.

While some Georgia based tourism officials say that moving the game cost the businesses about $100 million, Victor Matheson, a economics professor at Holy Cross thinks the impact is significantly less.

“The rule of thumb that I always tell everyone is just take whatever number the boosters are telling you, move the decimal one place to the left and you’ve probably got a pretty good guess. We’ve actually gone back and looked at data for cities that have hosted All-Star Games and Super Bowls and Olympic Games and events of that scale, and we always come up with numbers that are a fraction of what the numbers that were predicted ahead of time.”

This is backed up by Charlotte sports economics professor Craig Depken who studied the last two MLB All-Star Games in Texas and found that they provided almost no impact on the local economy.

The Job Creators Network is a supposedly nonpartisan organization that was founded by the anti-union, Trump-supporting co-founder of Home Depot Bernie Marcus and claims to be the “voice of Main Street.” Job Creator Network is being represented in court by Howard Kleinhendler, a New York-based attorney who performed legal work on behalf of Trump supporters who were challenging the 2020 presidential election.

Like many lawsuits filed by lawyers associated with Trump, this one looks frivolous. First MLB is a private association made up of privately owned teams meaning that they have the ability to put teams or games wherever they want. Second, both MLB and MLBPA officials enjoy First Amendment rights to speak out against any issue or law that they want. While it might not always be good for business, they do have legal protection to do so. Additionally, MLB and the Players Association will likely argue that their claim of damages is highly speculative. This includes the $1.6 million that they are claiming are direct losses that came from buying a billboard in Times Square to shame MLB and advertising in the New York Times to build attention for their attack on the league and the players association. It is also unclear how these businesses will prove that there is a $1 billion loss that is directly attributable to moving the All Star Game and not to extenuating factors like the pandemic.

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