This note begins by reviewing the Jewel Tea line of cases that theoretically serve as the starting point for any non-statutory exemption discussion, followed by brief overviews of the contrasting Wood and Mackey lines of cases. The background section then turns to a summary of Brown--the latest Supreme Court decision relating to the collective bargaining process in professional sports--followed by a brief discussion of the NFL eligibility rule and how it differs from the recently-enacted NBA eligibility rule, which is of unquestioned legality. Finally, both the District Court and Court of Appeals decisions in Clarett are summarized.
The analysis begins with the premise that had the Clarett case been brought in the Sixth, Eighth, or Ninth Circuits, the application of the Mackey approach may have provided a more favorable outcome for Mr. Clarett. Consequently, if a future college underclassman, such as Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, decides to challenge the eligibility rule in one of the aforementioned circuits, the court would likely declare that the rule violates antitrust laws. And instead of refusing to hear the case, as it did with Clarett, the Supreme Court's hand would almost be forced to choose between two contradictory decisions based on nearly-identical sets of facts.
In an attempt to provide a proposal to help guide the future decision-makers of this issue, this note goes on to analyze which circuit's approach does the best job of appeasing the policies behind both antitrust law and labor law when dealing with restraints on the labor market of professional sports leagues, and then proposes a solution to the circuit split that takes the form of a "modified Mackey approach."
Darren W. Dummit,
Upon Further Review: Why the NFL May Not be Free after Clarett, and Why Professional Sports May be Free from Antitrust Law,
8 Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/jetlaw/vol8/iss1/6