Supreme Court: NFL Is 32 Teams, Not Single Entity
Supremes eschew league's move to get broad antitrust protection
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 24, 2010 1:46 PM CDT
Bengals running back Cedric Benson (32) is chased by Ravens safety Ed Reed while scoring a touchdown during the third quarter, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009.   (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court today turned away the NFL's request for broad antitrust law protection, ruling that the league can be considered 32 separate teams—not one big business—when it comes to selling branded jerseys and caps. The high court unanimously reversed a lower court ruling against an antitrust suit brought by one of the league's former hatmakers, who was upset that it lost its contract to Reebok.

American Needle claimed the league violated antitrust law because all 32 teams worked together to freeze it out of the NFL-licensed hatmaking business. The company lost and appealed to the Supreme Court, but the NFL did as well, hoping to get broader protection from antitrust lawsuits. Major League Baseball is the only professional sports league with broad antitrust protection. The Supreme Court turned away the league's theory that its 32 teams operate as one business, and sent American Needle's antitrust lawsuit back to the lower court.