The University of New Hampshire Law Review


[Excerpt] “Contemporary sports have seen an influx of young talent opting for a chance at playing in the big leagues earlier at the expense of obtaining higher education. Many dream of playing professional sports—dreams often prohibited by player eligibility rules. In situations where the restraints are not argued to have been protected by non-statutory labor exception, antitrust law has been seen to set its talons into eligibility rules. […]

Federal antitrust law and national labor law set forth two conflicting policies that have created a periodic drama for sports fans concerned that their favorite sports will suffer a cataclysmic court room battle impairing the quality of the game. The Supreme Court interpreted federal antitrust and labor law to implicitly exclude antitrust liability for certain collective bargaining labor related activities under the non-statutory labor exception to antitrust law. This absence of explicit guidance has led to a split in the circuits where courts have formulated their own interpretations of these colliding national policies. In 1996, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Pro Football, Inc., attempted to further clarify the scope of this exemption and ultimately held that national antitrust and labor policies favored the application of the exception when the alleged restraints were in labor markets defined by collective bargaining. In 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held in Clarett v. National Football League4 that Brown reaffirmed the Second Circuit position that restraints resulting from the collective bargaining process and primarily impacting the labor market were subject to the non-statutory labor exception to antitrust law. […]

This note will analyze the Second Circuit’s ruling and rationale in light of the relevant governing law and national policies between antitrust law and labor law. Part II will discuss the general trend of player-raised antitrust challenges to restraint cases in professional sports, setting the stage for an aspiring football player like Clarett to challenge the NFL Eligibility Rules. In Part III, this note will discuss the facts, procedural history and outcome of Clarett. Part IV will discuss the historical background under which Clarett was ruled. Part V will analyze how courts have distinguished between restraints created through the collective bargaining process which primarily impact the labor market as opposed to those that primarily impact business markets. In Part VI, this note will analyze Clarett’s interpretation of Brown in distinguishing labor and business markets, and discuss how the non-statutory labor exception should be applied to labor market restraints as compared to business market restraints. Finally, it will outline the legacy that Clarett provides for future player-raised challenges in similar situations.”

Repository Citation

Ronald Terk Sia, Clarett v. National Football League: Defining the Non-Statutory Labor Exception to Antitrust Law as it Pertains to Restraints Primarily Focused in Labor Markets and Restraints Primarily Focused in Business Markets, 4 Pierce L. Rev. 155 (2005), available at http://scholars.unh.edu/unh_lr/vol4/iss1/8