The NFL Seeks to Changes Sports in America

The Detroit Lions – my team – have finally won.  And although this makes Lions fans very happy (and I am one of these), I want to spend some time today drawing attention to a more serious issue.  Specifically, there’s a case involving the NFL currently before the Supreme Court.  As Lestor Munson of ESPN.com argued, if the NFL wins this case life might change quite dramatically for sports fans.  It certainly will get much more expensive. 

A number of economists who specialize in the study of sports are doing their part to stop the NFL. For that story, I am going to borrow the commentary of Brad Humphreys (posted on Friday at the Sports Economist).

Earlier this week I described the American Needle v. NFL case that will soon be argued before the Supreme Court. The most recent filing in the case is an amicus curiae brief filed by a group of sports economists (including TSE co-bloggers Berri, Coates, Fort, Szymanski and yours truly). The brief rebuts many of the arguments made by the NFL, and points out in detail exactly how a ruling in favor of the NFL will result in a loss of consumer welfare.

From the introduction:

Our principal conclusion is that economic research provides a clear basis for distinguishing between collaborative activities among members of a league that enhance economic efficiency and benefit consumers from collusive activities that are not essential for the efficient operation of a league and that benefit league members by reducing competition among teams. We believe that a ruling that any sports league is a single entity in which teams cannot engage in anticompetitive collaboration in “core venture functions” is inconsistent with the consensus among economists about the efficient scope of league authority and the nature of competition in professional sports.
As citizens and professional economists, we have a substantial interest in fostering the appropriate use of economics in antitrust and in assuring that the economic assumptions that guide decisions in antitrust litigation do not conflict with the consensus from economics research both generally and with respect to professional team sports. The NFL Respondents highlight our interest in this matter by referring to their preferred approach to the single entity concept as “a more nuanced, economics-based approach.”

Roger Noll was the driving force behind the brief. Here is a link to the brief.

Just to summarize…

The NFL is trying to give itself immunity to anti-trust laws.  Such a ruling would apply to all professional sports. If that happens, sports fans can probably expect to spend far more money.  Yes, this prospect is quite serious.  Hopefully, though, the Supreme Court will not side with the NFL.

- DJ

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