The City of San Jose, Calif., filed a lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that Major League Baseball is stonewalling a vote by team owners that might allow the Oakland Athletics to move 40 miles south to San Jose.
The suit disputes MLB's federal antitrust exemption.
The San Francisco Giants oppose the Athletics' potential move on the grounds that their territorial rights to the San Jose area were confirmed when they were constructing AT&T Park.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig appointed a committee more than four years ago to study such a move by the A's. San Jose made a request to Selig in 2010 that the A's be allowed to relocate.
"It's time for someone to take on this supposed baseball exemption from antitrust laws," said attorney Phil Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, which is representing the city. "The City of San Jose is a perfect candidate to make that challenge."
The A's current ballpark, O.co.com Stadium, is in disrepair. A sewage backup in a locker room on Sunday forced the A's to share a locker room with the visiting Seattle Mariners.
"In considering the issues related to the Oakland Athletics, Major League Baseball has acted in the best interests of our fans, our communities and the league," Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president for economics and league affairs, said in a statement. "The lawsuit is an unfounded attack on the fundamental structures of a professional sports league. It is regrettable that the city has resorted to litigation that has no basis in law or in fact."
A's owner Lew Wolff has expressed his desire to locate in San Jose instead of moving to the team from the Bay Area.
"I have no details," Wolff said in a brief statement. "However, I am not in favor of legal action or legal threats to solve business issues."
Baseball's antitrust exemption has existed since 1922 when it was granted by the U.S. Supreme Court. At the time, the high court ruled that baseball is not interstate commerce. The San Jose lawsuit calls that into question in today's marketplace.
"MLB clubs ply their wares nationwide, games are broadcast throughout the country on satellite TV and radio, as well as cable channels and MLB clubs have fan bases that span from coast to coast," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit goes on to say the City of San Jose has lost millions of dollars in new sales-tax revenue and called MLB's attempts to protect the Giants from competition a "blatant conspiracy."
"This action challenges -- and seeks to remedy -- defendant's violations of state and federal laws and the use of the illegal cartel that results from these agreements to eliminate competition in the playing of games in the San Francisco Bay Area," said Joseph Cotchett, an attorney for the City of San Jose.
Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter refused to comment.