Is the National Football League's Requirements to Enter the Draft a Violation of Antitrust Law?
If so why? Why does the NFL think it is not a violation?
Defining the AntiTrusts Legislation
Sherman AntiTrust Legislation
Clayton Antitrust amendment
The Maurice Clarett Case
The NFL's position,
The effect is could have on the game.
Judge Scheinin's decision
Sherman Antitrust Act
Basis of Judge Shira Scheinin's Decision
Other cases from other Professional sports leagues, like the NBA, that are Similar to Maurice Clarett's Case
Haywood v. National Basketball Association, 401 U.S. 1204 (1971)
Impact that this case has had on the league
Players straight out of High School who have been successful
Players who have not been successful.
Is it worth the risk and is it fair to the kids who leave early
Will an 18-year-old out of High School not be physically tough enough to play in the NFL?
Summary and Conclusion
Antitrust Law and the National Football League
Bid rigging, price fixing, and other antitrust violations have a devastating effect on the American public economy. This illegal activity contributes to inflation, shakes public confidence in the country's economy, and undermines our system of free enterprise. These crimes can increase the costs of government, boost taxes, and erode the citizens' trust in their government and business community.
The federal antitrust laws were enacted to preserve our system of a free market based on free competition. They serve as our primary defense, a governor of the engine of business, against unlawful attempts to limit competition. When a business has the ability to limit competition, it has the ability to raise profits exorbitantly, ignore the customer's needs, or ignore to the traditional market forces. In an anti-competitive marketplace, organizations can raise the purchase prices of products and services, and extort their customers.
It is hard to conceive how these laws apply to the ability, or inability of a person who wants to enter a professional football career, but the recent court case brought by Maurice Clarett against the NFL charged that their rules regarding eligibility to enter the league are conspiratorial against his ability to earn a living. The NFL has placed age requirements on individuals. The want to make sure that a person who applies to for the job of a football player in the NFL will have developed the talent, as well as physical and emotional maturity to be qualified for the game. None the less this recent court action by Judge Shira Scheindin has declared that the NFL is in violation of antitrust legislation because of the qualifications it required of players to enter the game.
According to district Court Judge Shira Scheindin, the National Football League is acting in violation of the antitrust legislation by setting boundaries and limitations as to a person's age who wishes to enter the NFL. The judge declared that the NFL's age requirement for a person who wants to enter the NFL draft is a violation of antitrust law. While the case will undoubtedly be appealed, the effects of this decision on the game,
What is being challenged, according to the youth Maurice Clarett, is that the NFL is prohibiting him from earning a living be not allowing him to compete on an equal playing field (no pun intended) with players who are 3 or 10 years his senior. For the NFL, the question of antitrust has not been challenged successfully before this challenge. The age limitations and requirement to for new recruits to enter the draft exist for the purpose of the league to ensure physical and emotional maturity in its players. The game of football is not like basketball, which since 1971 has allowed players to come directly out of high school onto the court. The football game is a physical game which will pound a new play into submission before allowing him to rise to a level of success. Allowing a person on the field who is significantly less mature creates the real and measurable threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for that individual.
Earning a living is not the only measure of a person's success, and some of the veteran football players have a much different definition than does Maurice. Some players on the field would consider the opportunity to level an 18 or 19-year-old with a punishing open field, full contact tackle a measure of their own success. The younger player, if allowed to enter the game, could be at risk long-term disability, not only because of his own lack of preparedness, but also because of other players' aggressive play.
According to the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, (2003) the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was the first measure passed by the U.S. Congress to prohibit trusts, or the collective agreement between businesses entered into for the purpose of limiting competition. Prior to its enactment, various states had passed similar laws, but they were limited to intrastate businesses and could not enforce the legislation on a national scale. The industrial revolution brought about a significant change in the amount of power an individual company or group of companies could amass for themselves. When opposition to the concentration of economic power in large corporations and in combinations of business was brought to the attention of the Congress, the Sherman Act was the result. The act, based on the constitutional power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, declared as illegal every contract, combination of contracts, (in the form of trust or otherwise), or conspiracy that was organized in order to create restraint of interstate and foreign trade.
The Sherman Act authorized the federal government to institute proceedings against monopolies (trusts) in order to dissolve them, but subsequent challenges in the Supreme Court prevented federal authorities from using the act for a few years. President Theodore Roosevelt's finally put power behind the act by insisting on enforcing the statute, and as a result, the Sherman Act began to be invoked with some success, in 1904 the Supreme Court upheld the government's position in its suit for dissolution of the Northern Securities Company. The act was again employed by President Taft in 1911 against the Standard Oil trust and the American Tobacco Company.
The Clayton Antitrust Act, 1914, passed by the U.S. Congress as an amendment to clarify and supplement the Sherman Antitrust Act. Drafted by Henry De Lamar Clayton, the act further prohibited exclusive sales contracts, local price cutting to freeze out competitors, rebates, and interlocking directorates in corporations capitalized at $1 million or more in the same field of business. Labor unions and agricultural cooperatives were excluded from the forbidden combinations in the restraint of trade because the unions were also seen as agents of restraint against monopolistic business tendencies. The act restricted the use of the injunctions against labor to insist on their return to work, and it legalized peaceful strikes, picketing, and boycotts. The Clayton Antitrust Act was the basis for a great many important and much-publicized suits against large corporations, as the government sought to allow free competition to regulate the marketplace rather than individual businesses.
During the next few decades, antitrust legislation was further refined, as businesses evolved more creative ways to create unfair business advantages. The legislation has been used recently to challenge the success of Microsoft in a case which may have been pushing the legislation past the boundaries of what it was designed to prevent, and preserve in the marketplace. Essentially, the legislation has been designed to control monopolistic businesses from limiting competition in the marketplace, and preventing other businesses from competing. The question at issue in the case of the NFL is whether or not the player union's regulations that new players enter the draft, and that they cannot enter the draft until a certain age is in fact a violation of this legislation.
According the legal statute, and the case work which has been developed over the last half century, a civil plaintiff must establish three elements to prove a violation of the Act.
An agreement to concerted action, such as a combination or conspiracy formed by two or more entities.
That the agreement unreasonably restrained trade or commerce
The restrained trade or commerce is interstate or international.
Under [section] 1 of the Act, a conspiracy "must comprise an agreement, understanding or meeting of the minds between at least two competitors, for the purpose of, or with the effect of, unreasonably restraining trade." (Krauze and Mulcahy, 2003) The illegal agreement itself constitutes the offense; thus, neither completion of the conspiracy nor any overt acts furthering the conspiracy need be pleaded or proven in a case brought under the Act. Regarding the restraint of trade definition, the agreement or conspiracy must "unreasonably" restrain trade. The Supreme Court has referred to the phrase "restraint of trade" as "a particular economic consequence, which may be produced by quite different sorts of agreements in varying times and circumstances." (Krauze and…