NFL Case Could Impact Sports Game Licenses

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case of American Needle v. NFL next week and perhaps give the NFL broader protection against antitrust lawsuits.

At the heart of the case is an exclusive deal that the NFL has with Reebok as the official seller of hats,. jerseys and clothes using team insignias. American Needle lost its right to sell those items when the league reached the deal with Reebok in 2000.

Where this impacts the videogame industry is the exclusive license that Electronic Arts has with the NFL as the sole purveyor of an NFL-branded videogame with the Madden NFL series. According to a Reuters article:

A broad ruling could insulate professional sports leagues from antitrust claims over video-game licenses, television rights, franchise relocation and even player salaries. Only Major League Baseball is exempt from antitrust laws now.

In the past, the court has kept a tight rein on antitrust suits, and legal analysts say that the mere fact that the court has agreed to hear the case means it could be sympathetic to the NFL’s claims for broader protection.

The case for the NFL, according to brief it filed:

“A sports league produces a single entertainment product, a structured series of athletic competitions leading to a championship, that no member club could produce on its own."

However, American Needle countered with:

“The teams are separately owned and controlled profit- making enterprises. They are actual and potential competitors in numerous areas, including the licensing of intellectual property.”

Electronic Arts has come out on the side of the NFL for obvious reasons, and the antitrust protection for the NFL could ensure EA’s deal from outside interference as long as the NFL sees fit to continue the contract.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. 0
    Michael Chandra says:

    You mean that laws don’t apply to business that doesn’t get any money from the state? Because the laws are the only part of the government involved in this matter.

  2. 0
    ecco6t9 says:

    Here’s a thought EA,Reebok, and the NFL never went to Congress or The President and begged to be bailed out so the government has no say in any private business matters.


    And if the courts do decide against the NFL on the I hope the very next hour MLB has to follow the same rules.


    Fact is Madden did drop in quality but Take 2K Games MLB2K series also dropped when they secured an exclusive contract.

  3. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Did you read and understand the article, Zippy? If you did, why are you still coming up with this dumb crap? The teams are the NFL. It’s the teams, in the form of their larger parent organization, the NFL, who are raping America Needle. The NFL raping the teams has nothing to do with what’s going here.

    You should try harder to follow the actual plot. And quit making up your own plot as a substitute.

  4. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    Tghe teams need to ban togather and bully the NFL to allow them more rights over thier copy right, it should work both ways…. the teams should be allowed to do what they want(that dose not tarnish the brand) and give the NFL a 30% cut of profits….

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! CP/IP laws should not effect the daily life of common people!

  5. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    Which is exactly what’s been happening with the health-don’t-care industry. They were granted this status, and people are suffering for it. I mean, Baseball is one thing, as you won’t risk dying if you can’t afford a baseball game trip.

  6. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Exempting a business from antitrust regulation isn’t usually rationalized on the premise that its business model is incompatible with the regulatory effort. Rather, the more common rationale is that the business, as a matter of fact, can never have any natural competitors and, therefore, subjecting it to anitcompetitive regulation not only serves no useful purpose but also could indeed harm consumers (e.g., passed-down costs resulting from having the business satisfy a purposeless regulatory scheme). I’m not saying that the NFL satisfies the requirement of being without competitors. I’m just saying. 

  7. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    I didn’t know about MLB’s exemption from antitrust regulations, but I think it’s outrageous. No single organization or business type should get to enjoy such a privilege, nor should antitrust rules be dropped altogether. If your business model is incompatible with antitrust laws then you shouldn’t be in business.

  8. 0
    SeanB says:

    Be it NFL merchandise, games, or any other exclusive rights deals for merchandise of any type, i have only one comment. If you don’t like it, excersize your right as a consumer by NOT BUYING IT.

  9. 0
    Craig R. says:

    The ruling in this case, if in favor of the NFL and other sports leagues (MLB, NCAA) could have very large and very severe affects well beyond just exclusives for video games.

Leave a Reply