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2 DePaul J. Sports L. & Contemp. Probs. 1 (2004)

handle is hein.journals/jspocpd2 and id is 1 raw text is: THE FLIGHT FROM SINGLE-ENTITY STRUCTURED SPORT LEAGUES
Lacie L. Kaiser
Traditionally, sport leagues' have been structured as a type of unincorporated joint venture
among individual teams.2 Because of their traditional structures, sport leagues, such as the National
Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League
(NHL), have been vulnerable to federal antitrust liability under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.'
Courts have repeatedly rejected their arguments about being single entities for purposes of federal
antitrust laws and on many occasions have found them in violation of the law.4
In recent years, new professional sport leagues have conducted an experiment that is now
coming to an end. Sports leagues such as the Women's National Basketball Association
(WNBA), Women's United Soccer League (WUSA), and Major League Soccer (MLS)
organized themselves as single entities when they first came into existence. In attempt to
avoid antitrust litigation, they tried to centralize and control their respective sports by having the
league own all teams, hold all player and coaching contracts and pay those salaries, and maintain
sponsorship deals and broadcasting rights. Within the past two years, either by choice or by
J.D. candidate, DePaul University College of Law, 2005; B.A. Sport Management and Communication, University
of Michigan, 2002.
For purposes of this paper sport league will mean a team-oriented structure with a central office overseeing
operations and enforcing rules of a professional sport. Examples of a sport league are National Football League,
National Collegiate Athletic Association, and Women's National Basketball Association. This paper will not
explore amateur/collegiate sports and individual-based professional sports such as golf, tennis, and auto racing.
2 PAUL C. WElLER & GARY R. ROBERTS, SPORTS AND THE LAW, at 498 (2d ed. 1998).
3 Sherman Act of 1890, 15 U.S.C. § 1 (1994). It is important to note that the professional sport of baseball has
enjoyed a unique antitrust status. See Fed. Baseball Club v. Nat'l League, 259 U.S. 200 (1922); Flood v. Kuhn, 407
U.S. 258 (1972); Curt Flood Act of 1998, 15 U.S.C. § 26b (Supp. 1999).
4 See e.g. N. Am. Soccer League v. Nat'l Football League, 670 F.2d 1249 (2d Cir. 1982); Los Angeles Mem'l
Coliseum Comm'n v. Nat'l Football League, 726 F.2d 1381 (9th Cir. 1984); McNeil v. Nat'l Football League, 790
F. Supp. 871 (D. Minn. 1992); Sullivan v. Nat'l Football League, 34 F. 3d 1091 (1st Cir. 1995); Chicago Prof 1
Sports Ltd. P'ship v. Nat'l Basketball Ass'n, 961 F.2d 667 (7th Cir. 1992). There was one case that was the
exception to the long history of courts rejecting the single-entity defense for traditionally structured sport league.
See San Francisco Seals v. National Hockey League, 379 F. Supp. 966 (C.D. Cal. 1974).


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