It will be interesting to see what the implications of this are:
The Supreme Court said on Monday that the N.F.L. is an “unincorporated association of 32 separately owned professional football teams,” not a single business, for the purposes of selling branded jerseys and caps.
The unanimous ruling in American Needle Inc. v. National Football League was a reversal of a controversial lower-court ruling and amounted to a defeat for the league, which had sought protection from challenges to its business on antitrust grounds, legal experts said. In effect, the court said N.F.L. was still open to antitrust scrutiny, as it has been for years.
The case was brought by American Needle, an apparel maker from Illinois that lost its contract with the league when the N.F.L. entered into an exclusive 10-year, $250 million deal with Reebok in late 2000 to produce hats, jerseys and other league-branded merchandise.
American Needle argued that the league’s deal with Reebok violated antitrust statues because the N.F.L. was a collection of individually owned teams that compete with one another, not a single entity able to negotiate contracts on behalf of its teams. By striking a deal with Reebok, the league effectively conspired to stifle competition, the company argued.
American Needle appealed to the Supreme Court after it lost a federal court ruling that favored the N.F.L.
“Directly relevant to this case, the teams compete in the market for intellectual property,” Judge John Paul Stevens wrote on behalf of the court. “To a firm making hats, the Saints and the Colts are two potentially competing suppliers of valuable trademarks.”
Does anyone know how this is going to impact salary cap issues, because it isn’t as cut and dried as one would think. Small market teams like the Packers and the Steelers have major nationwide fanbases who are exceptionally loyal, and this could mean a lot of money for them if I am interpreting this correctly, because they would be able to choose the contracts of their pleasing.