SCOTUS Sacks NFL’s Claims of Antitrust Immunity

May 24, 2010 -

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled against the Nation Football League (NFL) in terms of specific antitrust language, which emerged from a lawsuit brought against the sports entity by apparel manufacturer American Needle.

American Needle had charged that the NFL’s exclusive apparel agreement with Reebok limited competition, violated the Sherman Act and led to higher prices for consumers. American Needle further charged that an agreement between NFL Properties (NFLP) and Reebok did not allow the company to negotiate apparel agreements with individual teams.

In its decision (PDF), authored by retiring Justice Stevens, SCOTUS unanimously reversed a lower court’s ruling, and, according to SCOTUS Blog, “cleared the way Monday for trial of a lawsuit against the joint marketing of the right to use the teams’ logos and trademarks on consumer goods.”

The decision hinged around Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which dictates, “Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal.”

In the decision, Stevens wrote “We conclude that the NFL’s licensing activities constitute concerted action that is not categorically beyond the coverage of §1 [Section 1].”

Between 1963 and 2000, NFLP granted nonexclusive licenses to a “number of vendors,” including American Needle. December of 2000 saw NFL Properties formed and a 10-year exclusive headwear deal for all 32 teams granted to Reebok. American Needle’s license was not renewed.

While the NFL had argued that “by forming NFLP, they have formed a single entity, akin to a merger, and market their NFL brands through a single outlet,” Stevens wrote, “An ongoing §1 violation cannot evade §1 scrutiny simply by giving the ongoing violation a name and label.”

A few more choice tidbits:

Although NFL teams have common interests such as promoting the NFL brand, they are still separate, profit-maximizing entities, and their interests in licensing team trademarks are not necessarily aligned.

It may be, as respondents argue, that NFLP “has served as the ‘single driver’’ of the teams’ “promotional vehicle,” “‘pursu[ing] the common interests of the whole.’” But illegal restraints often are in the common interests of the parties to the restraint, at the expense of those who are not parties.
 

As the SCOTUS Blog further noted, “The Court also did not decide whether the NFL did in fact act illegally in this specific marketing effort.”

If, in a forthcoming trial, it is ruled that the NFL did act illegally, LawsofPlay (earlier this year) outlined a scenario of what such a ruling could mean for the videogame world:

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.


Thanks BearDogg-X!!


Comments

Re: SCOTUS Sacks NFL’s Claims of Antitrust Immunity

The NFL never had anti trust immunity I don't think.

The only two I can think of are Majore League Baseball, and the insurance industry, which was hopefully yanked, and I won't cry for MLB fi theirs is yanked.

Re: SCOTUS Sacks NFL’s Claims of Antitrust Immunity

I am with LawsofPlay here. It would be great if individual teams could market themselves to any company, I don't think it will translate as well for games.

Sure a single team could allow for more than one company to make a game using their logo and players, but who really wants to play Vikings Football. People want to play the whole roster of teams.

In the end, this might work out well for merchandise like shirts, hats, coats, bobble-heads etc, but not do much for games.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: SCOTUS Sacks NFL’s Claims of Antitrust Immunity

I don't think it'll work out too well for merchandising, either, since, as I understand it, the team owners wanted a single entity to make those decisions.  Now, they're being told that was illegal, forcing every team to do their own merchandising.

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KronoAnd a rebuttal to that article: https://medium.com/@cainejw/an-actual-statistical-analysis-of-gamergate-dfd809858f6810/25/2014 - 9:42pm
Technogeekhttp://www.newsweek.com/gamergate-about-media-ethics-or-harassing-women-harassment-data-show-27973610/25/2014 - 8:54pm
TechnogeekAnd speaking of harassment and Gamergate, Newsweek had a social media analytics company analyze the hashtag in the interest of finding out what the movement was really about. The results should surprise absolutely nobody at this point.10/25/2014 - 8:54pm
Neo_DrKefkaI was called a traitor for speaking out on harassment and I was put on a list for people on twitter to mass report me. Only GamerGate site that has come out of this that has been reputable would be TechRaptor. 2/210/25/2014 - 7:09pm
Neo_DrKefka@Neeneko The reason why I ended my support of #GamerGate was the fact KingofPol (The guy who was sent the knife) ended up saying crap about those with autism. At this point I confronted the community and some big wig writers on the #GamerGate side. 1/210/25/2014 - 7:08pm
NeenekoIt would also mean they have to confront that the sites already mostly cater to them and wiping that small percentage of otherness just does not justify new sites.10/25/2014 - 6:55pm
Neeneko@ quiknkold - problem is it has never been about freedom, it is about dominance, ownership, and priviliage. women and minorities should be the ones leaving and creating their own spaces, not them!10/25/2014 - 6:54pm
Neo_DrKefka@Mecha I hear you about KingofPol this is a guy who is using GamerGate to boost his career. Most of his streams are crap about him talking about him being drunk. What happened to him was wrong but it doesn't change the fact he has instigated much of this10/25/2014 - 5:40pm
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Craig R.Gone for a week and come back to find GG didn't go away at all. Dammit.10/25/2014 - 3:48pm
Matthew Wilsonif they were serious, they would go to youtube. most youtube game reviewers tend to revew games as product, and tend leave social issues out of it.10/25/2014 - 1:42pm
quiknkoldif the gamergaters were serious, they'd realize that Kotaku and Polygon arent the only games in town, and that with the freedom of the internet, they could create their own websites and achieve the goals they are trying to achieve without arguement.10/25/2014 - 1:35pm
james_fudgehe should have called the police.10/25/2014 - 1:20pm
TechnogeekAt least my statement still holds if it does turn out to be a false flag.10/25/2014 - 1:03pm
NeenekoThough I admit, since doxxing and false flag where heavily used tactics of the GG supporters, while they are not historical tactics used by detractors, I am skeptical how much it is really 'both sides' doing it in any real volume.10/25/2014 - 1:01pm
NeenekoOne thing that makes all of this messy is 'false flag' is a serious concern here. It does not help that the original GG instigators were also known for doing elaborate false flags to discredit feminism themselves.10/25/2014 - 12:59pm
MechaCrashThe guy who got the knife is the one who advocated doxxing, by the way, and was getting court documents about Zoe Quinn so he could publicly post them. It doesn't make what happened to him right, but he deserves no sympathy.10/25/2014 - 12:42pm
TechnogeekNo, that's a pretty shitty thing to do and I fully support the responsible parties getting a visit from the relevant legal authorities.10/25/2014 - 12:17pm
Neo_DrKefkaSomeone anyone tell me how two wrongs somehow make a right? This is becoming exhausting and both sides are out of there minds!10/25/2014 - 11:40am
Neo_DrKefkaSo two GamerGate supporters received a knife and syringe in the mail today. The same GamerGate supporters who said how awful it was were seen in other tweets gathering lists and sending our similar threats or harassment to shut down the other side....10/25/2014 - 11:36am
 

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