Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) and D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy yesterday threatened to try to end major league baseball's exemption from federal antitrust law if major league owners do not approve a baseball franchise for Washington soon.
Major league owners now are able to force concessions from cities that want baseball franchises because the owners must approve, by a three-quarters majority vote, any expansion team, Parris said in a speech on the House floor.
"The league and the owners can just sit back and wait for us to fight it out until one of us comes up with the sweetest deal," he said.
Without the exemption the owners could not control the expansion, and proposing to eliminate it "might get the owners' attention" on the merits of a team for Washington, Parris added.
Fauntroy agreed that such a move would put pressure on the major league owners, who plan to discuss expansion at a meeting in Anaheim, Calif., in August.
Washington is competing with a number of other cities for an expansion team. Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke and former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn have expressed interest in bringing a team to Washington.
The House yesterday approved a bill to transfer ownership of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium from the federal government to the District government, which could then renovate the stadium to accommodate baseball again at an estimated cost of $5 million. Passage of the bill came on a voice vote with no debate or expressed opposition.
The House approved a similar bill two years ago, but no action was taken on it in the Senate before the last Congress ended. Some senators were concerned that the city would turn control of the stadium over to Cooke, according to Senate aides.
The legislation will be referred to the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee on the District, chaired by Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.). A spokeswoman for Mathias said the subcommittee hopes to hold hearings on the legislation in July.
One way to deal with concerns about control by one person over the stadium would be to create a regional board to oversee RFK, the spokeswoman said.
RFK, opened in 1961, was built on federal land for $19.8 million, with the federal and city governments splitting the cost. It is operated by the D.C. Stadium-Armory Board.
The city had sought the transfer, and the federal government had endorsed it, before a baseball team became a live issue, but it has become more important to the District as the prospect for a team has grown.