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Antitrust case delaying CBA?

Back in July, ESPN.com legal analyst Lester Munson looked at the potential impact of a pending antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court on the relationship between the NFL and its players union.

The case, involving a challenge to the league’s ability to enter into an exclusive headgear license with Reebok, turns on whether the NFL constitutes a single entity for the purposes of the specific antitrust law at play in that case.

If the league isn’t a single entity, then the process of coming together and deciding to do business with only one company violates antitrust laws.

Munson fears that the league would then parlay a favorable ruling into an attempt to take the position that the league is completely immune from any and all antitrust claims under each and every antitrust law.  Most importantly, the league could take the position that the union would not be able to decertify and sue the league under antitrust law as an attack on various rules (such as the draft, free agency, and salary) that the league would then apply to all 32 franchises.

The problem is that such a position, in our view, would make it difficult for the league to avoid the argument in other legal contexts that players and coaches are employees only of the team, and not employees of the league itself.

The league has declined our request for comment on the potential impact of the pending antitrust litigation on the can’t-have-it-both-ways notion that, for employment purposes, the 32 teams are separate entities.  And regardless of whether the league intends to attempt to take full advantage of a favorable antitrust ruling, a source with knowledge of the union’s thinking tells us that the NFLPA believes the league will wait for a ruling in the pending antitrust case until getting serious about working out a new CBA.

Given the expected timetable for a ruling, it appears that the unfloored year will unfold in 2010, with midnight being the expiration of the contract and potential imposition of a lockout, unless the union is wrong in its belief that the league is waiting for a ruling in the antitrust case.

If the union is right, then the safest course of action for the league would be to apply the leverage that comes from the uncertain outcome of the pending antitrust case in striking a new CBA.  If, after all, the NFL loses the pending antitrust case, the pendulum will swing back to the players.

Bottom line?  The pending antitrust case serves only to further complicate an already complex and tenuous situation.

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10 Responses to “Antitrust case delaying CBA?”
  1. litemater says: Sep 23, 2009 12:37 PM

    I cant spell check right either. ….

  2. Ice says: Sep 23, 2009 12:41 PM

    Why is no one discussing the alternate view…
    If it is determined that the league is indeed 1 entity instead of 32, then for all intents and purposes the league can impose a rookie wage scale. The NFLPA would not be able to call it collusion if every team in the league got together and decided on a wage scale, because it is all one entity. The league could say that the 1st overall pick gets $2m/year for the first 2 years, the 2nd gets $1.9m or whatever. Any team that offered more than the wage scale to a player would be penalized that draft pick in the following year. How could the NFLPA fight that? Even if the penalty could not be enforced, a hand-shake agreement by the owners could not be called collusion and would most likely be abided by.
    I’d be interested in hearing your legal opinion on that Florio.

  3. birdmancometh says: Sep 23, 2009 12:44 PM

    Ugh! Is it the owners or the players that are having trouble putting food on their tables? I wouldn’t want either side to starve.

  4. VonClausewitz says: Sep 23, 2009 12:56 PM

    It’s clear that the law which governs major sporting leagues like the NFL and MLB operates completely differently from the rest of the law. This brings up a whole bunch of weird edge conditions that are almost paradoxical and don’t make a whole lot of sense in the context of regular law. Furthermore because of the piecemeal way in which these rulings come in a patchwork of what the league can and cannot do will invariably lead to more lawsuits to clarify the exceptions. That’s just no way to run a business. I’m not a lawyer and I really don’t know what sort of legal principles are at play here. But it’s clear that all of this law has to be rewritten from scratch for clarity or the concept of antitrust exemptions need to be thrown out (http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/17-10/ff_smartlist_szymanski). Without a very clear and legally sound framework leagues can’t govern and players can’t know when they’re breaking rules. That’s a ridiculous state of affairs.

  5. barking mad says: Sep 23, 2009 1:26 PM

    florio you use your tongue pertier than a hundred dollar whore

  6. bgarcia says: Sep 23, 2009 1:44 PM

    The CBA is being delayed by a schism!

  7. frox says: Sep 23, 2009 1:55 PM

    “It’s clear that the law which governs major sporting leagues like the NFL and MLB operates completely differently from the rest of the law. This brings up a whole bunch of weird edge conditions that are almost paradoxical and don’t make a whole lot of sense in the context of regular law. Furthermore because of the piecemeal way in which these rulings come in a patchwork of what the league can and cannot do will invariably lead to more lawsuits to clarify the exceptions. That’s just no way to run a business. I’m not a lawyer and I really don’t know what sort of legal principles are at play here. But it’s clear that all of this law has to be rewritten from scratch for clarity or the concept of antitrust exemptions need to be thrown out (http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/17-10/ff_smartlist_szymanski). Without a very clear and legally sound framework leagues can’t govern and players can’t know when they’re breaking rules. That’s a ridiculous state of affairs. ”
    The only thing more difficult to understand than anti-trust law is this comment.

  8. gonuts says: Sep 23, 2009 2:59 PM

    How does the anti-doping measure from last week weigh in on this. There each club will be held to individual State Law. Florio does this have some effect on the single entity debate. It almost seems that each club is considered a separate entity from the NFL, but when it comes back royalties and maintaining control on those dollars, the NFL wants control. I’m wondering if the Star Caps ruling would help the argument that they are separate entities.
    Florio you better start expanding into the NBA MLB and Hockey, because this nuclear bomb called the CBA is about to go off. The NFL and it’s players are in belief that we will always be here supplying money to support their $1.1B Stadiums and Mazeratti buying habits…. I think the bubble will pop when the John Q Public gets to hear a bunch of wealthy Billionaires squabble with multi-Millionaires over whats fair. They seem to forget where that money comes from.

  9. tom coughlin's coat holder says: Sep 23, 2009 4:09 PM

    “the pendulum will swing back to the players”
    no,florio,the pendulum will swing to the people with the money.always was,always will be.

  10. The RBM says: Jan 7, 2010 9:36 PM

    gonuts;
    The money you write of comes from the Owners’ multi-billion dollar companies they own and run. They usually buy NFL franchises for fun and hand with the fellas (and a couple of Women)
    Most franchise generated revenue comes from corporate sponsors and oh, that 16 billion dollar television contract(s) they have. For fans to believe that their ticket, food concession, and apparel purchases somehow pays the players’ salaries AND keeps the team operations afloat need a reality check. That money is shared amongst teams (right now anyway).
    Owners know we need the NFL just as much, if not more then they do and they understand that the UFL, high school, and college football arent enough for violence seeking fans. They raise ticket prices, you complain, then you pay. They charge outrageous prices for PSL’s, you complain, then you pay. Oh, you can’t finish paying your PSL agreement? The owners sues you to get their money….. you complain, then you stay HOME and watch., lol.

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