The NFLPA was worried that a victory by the NFL in the American Needle case would allow the league to undercut any attempt by the union to eventually decertify (like it did after the 1987 strike) and sue the owners for violating antitrust laws via the imposition of rules regarding free agency and the draft. Instead, the NFL lost the American Needle case — and the ruling is prompting the union to twist the outcome into something much more than it really is.
“Today, the United States Supreme Court again made clear that the NFL is
not exempt from the anti-trust laws that all other American businesses
must follow,” the union declares in a press release. “In reversing the appellate court’s prior ruling, the Court
found that the 32 NFL teams do not act as a ‘single entity’ such that
they are completely exempt from Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In other
words, the NFL — despite its best efforts — is not above the law.
Specifically, in a 9-0 decision, the Court held that NFL teams do not
possess the ‘complete unity of interest’ necessary for an exemption.
Instead, each team is a separately-owned business entity competing
vigorously against the others, both on and off the field.”
Though that first paragraph contains plenty of feisty language, it’s not grossly erroneous. That said, the final sentence completely overlooks the closing pages of the Supreme Court decision, which expressly acknowledges that some agreements among the teams may be justified.
But then the union really comes unglued.
“Although the case arose from an apparel license, the case and today’s
decision have a broad impact on the business of the NFL as a whole,” the release states. “Had
the Court allowed the NFL to evade the anti-trust laws, ticket prices
would have increased, free agency would have ended or been crippled, the
way we watch football on television would have been fundamentally
altered and our states and local governments would have been held
hostage by a league with a Court-issued license to run wild.”
Um, really? Ticket prices would have increased? How? Why?
And how in the world would the television viewing experience have changed? Federal law already provides an antitrust exemption for broadcasting contracts.
As to the notion that state and local governments would have been held hostage, we don’t understand that one enough to even begin to frame a coherent criticism of it.
Then the union really pushes things into overdrive.
was originally brought by American Needle, a manufacturer of NFL-branded
hats,” the union states. “In 2000, the NFL and team owners decided they could make more
money by selling an exclusive license to one company. Reebok purchased
that right, prompting American Needle’s suit claiming that the teams of
the NFL colluded to limit competition in violation of the anti-trust
What the union ignores is that the effort to “make more money” necessarily “makes more money” for the players, since the players get 59.6 cents on the dollar. So, basically, the union is celebrating the fact that the NFL has been thwarted in its efforts to “make more more,” both for the NFL . . . AND FOR THE PLAYERS.
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah pointed out on Twitter that today’s ruling “doesn’t mean we can pop champagne just yet” and that the proper sentiment is relief. Meanwhile, the press release issued by his organization looks to be a spraying champagne all over the NFL — and necessarily all over itself.