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A More Perfect Union

4 August, 2009 (14:02) | Politics, Sports

The Supreme Court
Back Row, Left to Right: Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Samuel Alito
Front Row: Anthony Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, David Souter (retired)

Recently, ESPN’s Lester Munson published an excellent story on, of all things, constitutional law and corporate personhood. The case, which will be heard by the Supreme Court sometime in the next year, could have serious ramifications for professional leagues across the nation. What’s worse is that it may also set a new standard for the treatment of government allowed monopolies and oligopolies in all fields while taking away much of the bargaining power of unions.

A Quick Summary:
American Needle Inc. is a sports apparel company which made hats bearing logos of NFL teams. In 2001, the NFL signed an exclusive deal making Reebok the sole maker of NFL-branded headware. American Needle, in the role of the jilted ex, sued claiming that the NFL teams were colluding and violating the anti-trust Sherman Act in preventing other companies from soliciting contracts to make apparel. In 2005, American Needle lost its first court case, the courts ruling that the NFL had a right to collectively bargain its licensing and, in the purpose of promoting football through marketing or licensing, was a single entity. In 2008, American Needle’s appeal was also denied on essentially the same grounds. It was no surprise that American Needle appealed again, this time to the Supreme Court, though in previous similar cases the Supreme Court declined to hear them. In a surprise move, the NFL requested that the case be heard, a maneuver which, given the current pro-business judges on the Supreme Court, could change the face of sports more significantly than anything before.

I’m hardly qualified to explain the far-reaching effects this case could have and I don’t think I can do a better job than Lester Munson or any number of legal professionals have already done. I highly recommend taking a look at his article, and if you want a more authoritative look, Marc Edelman of Rutgers School of Law has a pair of articles that provide excellent arguments why the court would be wrong to rule in favor of the NFL.