It'll Break Your Heart Every Time: Race, Romanticism and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Litigating Baseball's Antitrust Exemption
24 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2013 Last revised: 18 Jun 2018
Date Written: November 27, 2013
The recent blockbuster 42 romanticizes the role of major league baseball in the civil rights movement. But Jackie Robinson’s shattering of the color line in 1947 represented only the first step in the game’s evolution. With considerably less fanfare, Curt Flood took the next step. Flood’s ill-fated challenge to the infamous reserve clause landed him before the United States Supreme Court in 1972. It’ll Break Your Heart Every Time casts new light on Flood’s underappreciated legal struggle by presenting a meta-meditation on his lawsuit, the fallibility of judges and the power of the National Pastime’s grand mythology.
When the Supreme Court’s infamous decision in Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258 (1972), is cited for any one proposition, it is not for its key holding — the reaffirmation of baseball’s antitrust exemption. Rather, it has become exhibit A for the risks of slavish adherence to stare decisis. In the four decades since its pronouncement, the holding has never been completely overruled — either by the Supreme Court or Congress. And while the decision itself has received widespread condemnation elsewhere, legal, economic and policy analysts have generally failed to appreciate a critical first-order question about the case: how it happened and whether, in other circumstances, it could happen again. This Essay address these issues by examining the profound role of the National Pastime’s mythology and its spell-binding romanticism in the making of bad law. In the process, the Essay also raises broader jurisprudential questions about the nature of legal reasoning and the powerful lure of epistemological narratives, particularly in the struggle for civil rights.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation