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eller_vs_nfl_lawsuit

eller_vs_nfl_lawsuit

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Published by: antitrusthall on Mar 29, 2011
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03/29/2011

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Carl Eller, Priest Holmes, ObafemiAyanbadejo, and Ryan Collins,individually, and on behalf of all otherssimilarly situated,Plaintiffs,v.National Football League, ArizonaCardinals, Inc., Atlanta Falcons FootballClub LLC, Baltimore Ravens LimitedPartnership, Buffalo Bills, Inc., PanthersFootball LLC, Chicago Bears FootballClub, Inc., Cincinnati Bengals, Inc.,Cleveland Browns LLC, Dallas CowboysFootball Club, Ltd., Denver BroncosFootball Club, Detroit Lions, Inc., GreenBay Packers, Inc., Houston NFL HoldingsLP, Indianapolis Colts, Inc., JacksonvilleJaguars Ltd., Kansas City Chiefs FootballClub, Inc., Miami Dolphins, Ltd.,Minnesota Vikings Football Club LLC,New England Patriots, LP, New OrleansLouisiana Saints, LLC, New York FootballGiants, Inc., New York Jets Football Club,Inc., Oakland Raiders LP, PhiladelphiaEagles Football Club, Inc., PittsburghSteelers Sports, Inc., San Diego ChargersFootball Co., San Francisco Forty NinersLtd., Football Northwest LLC, The RamsFootball Co. LLC, Buccaneers LimitedPartnership, Tennessee Football, Inc.,Washington Football Inc.Defendants.---------------------------------------------------xCivil Action No:CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT
CASE 0:11-cv-00748-RHK -JSM Document 1 Filed 03/28/11 Page 1 of 45
 
 1
1.
 
This class action is brought to enjoin violations by each defendant of the federal antitrust laws and for declaratory relief as described below. Plaintiffs areformer professional football players who played with the National Football League(“NFL”).
INTRODUCTION
 2.
 
The Defendants are the NFL and its 32 member teams. Although theNFL might be viewed as a type of joint venture, The United States Supreme Court heldlast year in
American Needle, Inc. v. NFL
, 130 S.Ct. 2201, 2212-13 (2010) that eachmember team is legally capable of conspiring with other member teams in violation of the antitrust laws:The NFL teams do not possess either the unitarydecisionmaking quality or the single aggregation of economicpower characteristic of independent action. Each of the teamsis a substantial, independently owned, and independentlymanaged business. “[T]heir general corporate actions areguided or determined” by “separate corporateconsciousnesses,” and “[t]heir objectives are” not “common.”... The teams compete with one another, not only on theplaying field, but to attract fans, for gate receipts and forcontracts with managerial and playing personnel.3.
 
The NFL is also an adjudicated monopolist that acquired itsmonopoly power in the market for professional football in violation of Section 2 of theSherman Act (15 U.S.C. §2). Thus, in
United States Football League v. NFL
, 644 F.Supp. 1040, 1057-58 (S.D.N.Y. 1986),
aff’d 
, 842 F.2d 1335 (2d Cir. 1988) (“
USFL
”), thecourt upheld jury determinations that (a) the NFL held monopoly power in theprofessional football market, receiving 95% of the revenues from major league
CASE 0:11-cv-00748-RHK -JSM Document 1 Filed 03/28/11 Page 2 of 45
 
 2
professional football and (b) it had acquired that power through “predatory conduct.”These findings have been given collateral estoppel effect in subsequent antitrust casesagainst the NFL.
E.g
.,
McNeil v. NFL
, 790 F.Supp. 871, 889-96 (D. Minn. 1992)(“
McNeil II 
”). Those findings are entitled to similar effect in this case.4.
 
The NFL has also been determined to have abused its dominantposition in the market for professional football services, which is the relevant market atissue in this case. For example, in
Mackey v. NFL
, 543 F.2d 606 (8th Cir. 1976),
cert.dismissed 
, 434 U.S. 801 (1977) (“
Mackey
”), the issue was the validity of the “RozelleRule,” which decreed that when a football player’s contract with an NFL club expiredand he moved to a different club, his present employer had to provide compensation tohis former employer, with the NFL Commissioner resolving any dispute. The UnitedStates Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the district court’s determination of liability after a 55-day trial. The appellate court found that the relevant market was onefor professional football services (
id 
. at 617-18) and that the “Rozelle Rule, as enforced,unreasonably restrains trade in violation of §1 of the Sherman Act” (
id 
. at 622).5.
 
Likewise, it has been determined that the NFL’s College Draft“cannot be regarded as ‘reasonable’ under the antitrust laws.”
Smith v. Pro-Football
, 420F. Supp. 738, 747 (D.D.C. 1976),
aff’d in part and rev’d in part on other grounds
, 593F.2d 1173 (D.C. Cir. 1978) (“
Smith
”). This determination as well is entitled to collateralestoppels effect here.6.
 
Similarly, after a ten-week trial, a jury in another case held that theNFL’s conspiratorial Right of First Refusal/Compensation rules (known as “Plan B”
CASE 0:11-cv-00748-RHK -JSM Document 1 Filed 03/28/11 Page 3 of 45

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