A Proper Analysis of the National Football League Under Section One of the Sherman Act
Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law, Vol. 9, 2008
25 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2009 Last revised: 30 Jun 2009
Date Written: April 11, 2008
The National Football League ("NFL") has often attempted to avoid antitrust liability by asserting that the league constitutes a single entity, incapable of illegal collusion for purposes of section 1 of the Sherman Act. Viewed properly, the NFL and its member-teams are a single entity with respect to matters of non-labor policy. Not only do the league and its teams share a unity of interest, but the economic realities of professional football necessitate that the league and its teams be considered a single economic unit. However, most courts to consider the NFL's single entity defense have rejected the league's argument. These courts have improperly focused their analysis on trivial aspects of the NFL's league structure, while marginalizing the more relevant factors to be considered under the Supreme Court's decision in Copperweld.
Recently, the district court in American Needle diverged from these erroneous precedents, instead holding that the NFL is a single entity with respect to licensing of league trademarks. While American Needle represents a significant advance in NFL single entity jurisprudence, the opinion may nevertheless prove to be of limited precedential value. This article concludes that future courts considering the issue should follow the approach taken in American Needle, and find that the NFL is a single entity with respect to league nonlabor policy.
Keywords: Sports Law, Single Entity Status, National Football League, NFL, Copperweld, American Needle, Antitrust law, Sherman Act
JEL Classification: K21, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation