NFL Is Not One Entity, Supreme Court Rules
The Supreme Court has ruled that the 32 teams that comprise the NFL are actually separate entities. The high court’s ruling comes after a six-year lawsuit between the NFL and American Needle, a cap manufacturer.
In 2004, American Needle sued. The suit stated that the league was engaging in antitrust activities by signing an exclusive 10-year agreement with Reebok in 2001, which extended to all 32 teams, for its headgear.
The case has worked its way through all of the lower courts, each loser volleying for a new ruling. When American Needle lost and appealed to the Supreme Court, the NFL did too.
The NFL’s case stated that they were a single entity, and therefore not subject to antitrust laws as one company. The Supreme Court has decided that, due to each team’s individual ownership and management, they do not operate as a single business.
Based on their decision, the lower court will now rule on whether the NFL broke the law in signing the agreement with Reebok. The irony is that the contract with Reebok will end in 2011, probably before a final ruling will be handed down in this case.
The only major US sports franchise to receive antitrust protection is MLB. The NBA, NHL, NCAA, NASCAR, professional tennis and MLS supported the NFL in this case, hoping that protection would extend to their sports as well.
Read more at SI.com and Sportingnews.com