American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League et al.: Should the NFL Be Considered a Single Entity?

Adriana S. de Armas, Managing Editor For Tech. & Dev., Albany Government Law Review Member

            On January 13, 2010, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the American Needle v. National Football League case.[1]  The two questions presented to the Supreme Court were:[2]

(1) Are the NFL and its member teams a single entity that is exempt from rule of reason claims under [§ 1] of the Sherman Act[3] [hereinafter § 1] simply because they cooperate in the joint production of NFL football games, without regard to their competing economic interests, their ability to control their own economic decisions, or their ability to compete with each other and the league? 

(2) Is the agreement of the NFL teams among themselves and with Reebok International, pursuant to which the teams agreed not to compete with each other in the licensing and sale of consumer headwear and clothing decorated with the teams’ respective logos and trademarks, and not to permit any licenses to be granted to Reebok’s competitors for a period of ten years, subject to a rule of reason claim under [§ 1] of the Sherman Act, where the teams own and control the use of their separate logos and trademarks and, but for their agreement not to, could compete with each other in the licensing and sale of Team Products?[4]

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