The Supreme Court of the United States is scheduled to hear the American Needle v. NFL case today and a decision could have an impact on gamers.
The crux of the case has American Needle contending that the NFL’s exclusive apparel agreement with Reebok limits competition and is a violation of the Sherman Act, in part because the NFL’s (consisting of 32 privately-owned teams) and NFL Properties’ (equally-owned by all 32 teams) agreement with Reebok does not allow for American Needle to negotiate apparel deals with individual NFL teams.
It’s also argued that the exclusive contract with Reebok has led to higher prices for consumers.
The NFL claims that it acts as a single entity, even though it is comprised of numerous teams.
LawsofPlay offers some opinions on the case and what might happen once a ruling comes down.
On the NFL as a single entity:
While there are a number of good reasons to maintain the NFL’s current licensing arrangements, it does not seem to me that the long history of competition between NFL teams–including ticket sales and media rights–supports the idea that the NFL should be considered a single entity.
Things could get weird in the videogame world if the NFL loses the case. LawsofPlay serves up this scenario:
Rather than appealing to a single business or organization, such as the NFLP, publishers would be able to negotiate with individual teams. While this could lead to more competition in the sports gaming markets, it could also lead to really wonky arrangements–imagine EA releasing an NFL game with 20 NFL teams and a dozen or so fantasy teams to round out the roster while 2K releases a game with the 12 NFL teams missing from EA’s game and a handful of its own fantasy teams.
…publishers could consider the cost to license individual marks and opt only to enter into agreements with the teams that seemed economically “worth it.” After all, it is possible that a publisher does not derive as much value from including the Lions in their game as they do from including the Packers.