There's No 'I' in 'League': Professional Sports Leagues and the Single Entity Defense
26 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2009 Last revised: 14 Jan 2012
Date Written: October 1, 2006
This paper examines the split of authority regarding the single entity status of professional sports leagues under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Specifically, the paper argues that outside of labor disputes, sports leagues should be presumed to be single entities. Part I argues that professional sports leagues are single entities in disputes regarding league-wide, nonlabor policy. In particular, the focus of the Supreme Court's jurisprudence on economic reality rather than organizational form necessitates a finding that professional sports leagues are single entities in nonlabor disputes. Part II argues that professional sports leagues are not single entities for purposes of labor disputes; sports leagues, on the whole, do not possess a unity of interest for labor matters. More importantly, the existing precedent outside of the professional sports context carefully balancing the competing interests of labor and antitrust law should apply to professional sports. The paper concludes that a general classification scheme should be adopted in which professional sports leagues are presumed to be single entities, with an exception for labor disputes.
Keywords: Sports Law, Single Entity Status, Copperweld, Sherman Act, Professional Sports Leagues, National Basketball Association, NBA, National Hockey League, NHL, National Football League, NFL, Major League Soccer, MLS, Antitrust Law, Labor Law
JEL Classification: K21, K31, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation