The Save America's Pastime Act: Special-Interest Legislation Epitomized
29 Pages Posted: 11 May 2018 Last revised: 2 Aug 2018
Date Written: July 24, 2018
Buried deep within the 2,232-page omnibus federal spending bill passed by Congress in March 2, was an obscure, half-page provision entitled the “Save America’s Pastime Act” (SAPA). The SAPA was inserted into the spending bill at the last minute at the behest of Major League Baseball (MLB), following several years—and several million dollars—worth of lobbying efforts. MLB pursued the legislation to insulate its minor-league pay practices from legal challenge after they had become the subject of a federal class-action lawsuit alleging that the league’s teams failed to pay minor-league players in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum-wage and overtime provisions. The SAPA helps shield MLB from these claims by creating a new statutory exemption largely excluding most professional baseball players from the protections of the FLSA.
This article provides the first substantive analysis of the SAPA. Specifically, it asserts that although initial assessments concluded that the provision would shield MLB from any future liability for its minor-league pay practices, a closer reading of the statute reveals that it contains several potential ambiguities that could arguably give rise to unanticipated liability for the league. Nevertheless, the article asserts that the SAPA significantly reduces the odds that MLB will be forced to substantially change its minor-league pay practices in the future. At the same time, the article also evaluates the broader implications of the SAPA for federal minimum-wage and maximum-hour law generally.
Keywords: Major League Baseball, MLB, Minor League Baseball, Fair Labor Standards Act, FLSA, Minimum Wage, Overtime, Save America’s Pastime Act
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