Flood v. Kuhn Case Brief

Facts of the case

Curtis C. Flood was a professional baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League. Flood was a consistent, above-average hitter and a well-regarded outfielder, playing one full season without an error in 1966, an unusual achievement. Flood played twelve seasons for the Cardinals, participating in three World Series, and was the co-captain of the team between 1965 and 1969.Despite this, Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in October 1969. The Cardinals did not consult him before the trade, and management only informed him about the trade after it was finalized. Flood complained to the Commissioner of Baseball, Bowie K. Kuhn, requesting that the league make him a free agent. Kuhn denied his request, relying on baseball’s “reserve clause,” which maintained a given team’s rights to a player even after that player’s contract expired. Flood then filed an antitrust suit against Kuhn, the presidents of the two major leagues, and the twenty-four major league clubs. He declined to play for the Phillies in 1970 despite a $100,000 salary offer.Flood alleged violations of the federal antitrust laws, civil rights laws, state statutes, the common law, and the imposition of a form of peonage and involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment and several federal laws. The trial court granted the defense’s motion for summary judgment, relying on Federal Baseball Club v. National League and Toolson v. New York Yankees , which established a long-standing antitrust exemption for professional baseball clubs. The United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, affirmed.


The Supreme Court of the united States affirmed the appellate court’s judgment. The Court ruled that although baseball was a big business engaged in interstate commerce, Court precedent dictated that the reserve system was exempt from federal antitrust laws. Any change in the long-established judicial exemption of professional baseball, unlike other professional sports, from the federal antitrust laws, was a matter for Congress, not the Court. Flood’s state antitrust claims failed, the Court ruled, because granting the relief sought would conflict with federal policy and national uniformity.

  • Advocates: Paul A. Porter argued the cause for the respondent Kuhn Louis F. Hoynes Jr. argued the cause for respondents Feeney et al. Arthur J. Goldberg for petitioner
  • Petitioner: Curtis C. Flood
  • Respondent: Bowie K. Kuhn, Commissioner of Baseball, et al.
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: Major League Baseball Commissioner’s Office
Citation: 407 US 258 (1972)
Argued: Mar 20, 1972
Decided: Jun 19, 1972
Granted: Oct 19, 1971
Flood v. Kuhn Case Brief