Bernie Sanders on Real Sports.

One of the strangest things in North American professional sports is the antitrust exemption granted to Major League Baseball by a 1922 Supreme Court ruling. That does not apply to other professional sports, and that’s helped other football, basketball, and hockey leagues to launch (even if none of those have experienced long-term success to date).

The antitrust exemption does not apply to absolutely everything baseball (see the settlement from 2016), but it applies to a lot. It’s also led to arguably more U.S. government interference with baseball than with those other sports leagues (as seen in efforts like the 2005 congressional hearings on steroid use), especially with the threat of revoking that exemption always out there. Well, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) previously put out a statement blasting baseball’s “oligarchs,” and he’s now filed the “Save American Baseball Act” to legislatively revoke that exemption. He spoke to Real Sports‘ Bryant Gumbel about that this week.

That segment appears on the March episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, premiering Tuesday on HBO at 10 p.m. ET/PT and also available on HBO Max. Here’s a clip of Gumbel’s interview with Sanders:

And here are a few quotes from Sanders from that full segment (from a transcript provided by HBO):

“I’m very excited that we have introduced this legislation which should do away with the unique antitrust leg protections that Major League Baseball has enjoyed since 1922. I think the time is now when these billionaires should start paying attention to the needs of the fans and the people of this country, rather than just their bottom line.”

“We are going to have a hearing, I believe, in the Judiciary Committee in the very near future. And I think what you will see, Bryant, is support not just from Democrats, but from Republicans. I think this is a bipartisan effort. You know, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Corporations are makin’ huge profits. CEOs get huge compensation packages, and it’s the same exact thing with baseball. These billionaires are making all kinds of money, and yet they could care less about ordinary people. And by the way, one of the concerns that I have personally is that if you’re a working class family, you know, husband and wife, two kids and you wanna go to a Major League Baseball [game], it’s almost completely unaffordable right now.”

“I think there is a growing anger amongst the American people at baseball. I think, you know, the temperature is rising here in Congress to do something about it.”

“It is an outrage that they imposed a 99-day lockout on players. And I think they were attempting to break the union. To my mind, it was an outrage that over the last several years, they have eliminated Minor League Baseball in 40 communities all over this country. You know, so we had one in Burlington, Vermont. Kids come and for five bucks, you know, fans can get close to the players, enjoy baseball. They eliminated that.”

There’s more to this interview, and it should be an interesting watch. And this adds to the notable and late-breaking interviews that Gumbel himself has conducted for Real Sports recently, including extensive COVID-19 and racial injustice interviews in June 2020, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith on Jon Gruden’s emails last October, former NFL receiver Antonio Brown in January, and former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores last month.

Much of Real Sports each month is long-baking features, and those can have a lot of merit. They also have the advantage of being more evergreen and watchable whenever.  But it’s also good that the show is proving able to mix in timely interviews with notable newsmakers. These interviews can add a lot to the conversation about that particular news, and Gumbel remains an excellent interviewer. And this is just the latest example of that.

March’s episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO, and is also available to stream on HBO Max. Photo supplied by HBO.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.