The NFL Lawyers Up

Josh Wright —  14 March 2011

For a possible antitrust suit following from the players’ decertification:

The National Football League geared up for its antitrust battle against players Saturday by hiring two prominent attorneys for its legal team.

David Boies, who represented Al Gore in the Bush vs. Gore case following the 2000 election, and who last year won a $1.3 billion copyright infringement verdict for Oracle, will represent the N.F.L. in the suit brought by players against the league after the dissolution of the players union Friday. He is considered one of the country’s leading trial lawyers.

Also joining Gregg Levy, the longtime outside counsel for the N.F.L., will be Paul Clement, who served for three years as the U. S. Solicitor General for President George W. Bush and who has argued more than 50 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hearings in the injunction players are seeking to lift the lockout planned by team owners could begin as early as next week.

NYTMichael McCann provides a nice review of the state of play and where things are likely to go from here.


4 responses to The NFL Lawyers Up


    A classic case of the millionaires against the billionaires.


    And, with respect to the draft, now that the NFLPA is a trade association rather than a union, isn’t calling for a boycott of the draft an illegal group boycott?


    Say the players win and the court finds that the draft, salary cap, and free agency systems that have been collectively bargained violate the antitrust laws. Are the players better off?

    On the draft, one of the biggest concerns on both sides was that first round picks were getting too much money. Teams wanted a rookie pay scale and players seemed willing to have something of the sort because it meant more money available for veterans. So in the absence of the draft, all college players would become free agents. Wouldn’t the top stars be likely to get even *more* money than they would as a first-pick, given that they now could play teams off of each other? If so, loss to players (and teams).

    On the salary cap, it would allow teams to spend an unlimited amount on players (or limited only by their budgets), but the salary cap also had a salary floor, which also would be out. So while some teams (Cowboys, Giants, Redskins) might spend a ton of money on free agents, some others (Jacksonville, Oakland) might spent a tiny amount. If so, it’s not clear this benefits players.

    On free agency, would players really benefit from true free agency? Unless teams start using guaranteed contracts it could set off a huge amount of player movement, which also means lots of cuts. Some players will win, but others will lose because they’ll be cut and unable to sign for a similar level contract. Again, unclear benefits.

    Finally, if the players win is there any requirement that the league guarantee a share of its television revenue to the players? As a legitimate joint venture for many purposes, and one that enjoys an antitrust immunity for its sports broadcasting, presumably the league could take all revenue from its television contracts, deduct some amount of league revenue for operations (this was the $1-2B they all were fighting over), and then divide it by 32. What each team does with its money is its own business. Some might decide to hire a bunch of 3d string players for the minimum amount possible and roll around in the remaining cash like pigs in you know what. Sure, the games would suck, but the owners would be even richer.


    Does American Needle have any bearing on this?