The NBA, Television Broadcasting Rights, and Collective Bargaining

Television broadcasting rights in professional sports are a huge chunk of the revenue equation for professional leagues, and it isn’t very hard to see how that is the case. For example, the current NBA TV deal is worth about $930 million annually. In 2016, this deal is set to expire and current reports indicate that an extension is in the works that will pay the NBA over $2 billon annually for the rights to broadcast games on Turner and ESPN networks. When this deal comes to fruition, the revenue generated by the TV deal will dwarf the money coming in from any other source.

While the value of the NBA’s television broadcasting rights are staggering, the most interesting aspect of the new deal is how it will affect the collective bargaining process. In 2011, the NBA suffered through a lockout where owners claimed to be losing hundred of millions of dollars each year. For this reason, the owners argued, the player’s cut of the revenue needed to be scaled back. By the time the lockout ended, the owners had modest success in achieving this particular goal, pinning the player’s share of basketball related income back to between 49% and 51%. The previous basketball related income split was approximately 57–43% in favor of the players.

With the television revenue doubling by 2016, the owners will not have a leg to stand on if they again try to argue that teams are losing money. Considering the amount of money set to be on the table, the players are likely to fight for a bigger chunk. And if the owners aren’t reasonable about it, the league could be looking at another lockout.

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Common Sense Could Have Saved NFL from Domestic Abuse Furor

Ray Rice. Adrian Peterson. These names used to cause fans to wax poetic about on-field performances the previous Sunday or potential blockbuster fantasy football trades. Now, mentioning them conjures up nothing but negativity.

The recent revelation of domestic violence issues in the National Football League has given the league something serious to think about. Once the beacon of how profitable and well-run a professional sports league can be, the NFL is now operating under a cloud shrouded in darkness. The league’s actions, or lack thereof, are coming under fire, and rightfully so. It is impossible to predict exactly what the investigation being headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller will reveal, but it is likely that it will reveal missteps on the part of the NFL in handling the domestic violence issue.

What further inflames the matter is that domestic violence involving NFL players is not a new controversy, yet a specific policy is just now being put forth. According to a database compiled by USA Today, domestic violence issues account for 85 of the 713 total NFL player arrests since 2000. A CNN story also recounted past NFL handling of domestic abuse episodes. Knowing this, it is bewildering that the Ray Rice situation was the catalyst for implementing a league-wide policy.

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Time for Changes in the Policies of Major League Soccer

soccerMajor League Soccer (MLS) is the top-flight soccer league in the United States. Unlike professional soccer leagues in other nations, MLS does not use a federation model. In a federation model, a governing association controls each level of the sport, from the amateur ranks that play on Saturday afternoons to the highly paid professionals. In this structure, any team is theoretically capable of reaching the highest level of the pyramid because teams are promoted and relegated up and down the ranks at the end of each season. Instead, the structure of MLS is more akin to other American leagues: private associations in which the owners dictate operation in strictly professional ranks.

Like the other American sports leagues, MLS has largely seen its structure challenged under antitrust law. In Fraser v. Major League Soccer, 284 F.3d 47, 61 (2002), a group of players argued MLS teams’ agreement not to compete for player services was in violation of the Sherman Act. The First Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed because the appellants failed to make the requisite relevant market showing. Id. at 69. Further, the district court’s finding that MLS was a single entity for antitrust purposes was not reversed because the court did not need to decide the issue. Id. at 56.

Within the typical American league structure, the single entity antitrust exemption has not been widely adopted because teams do compete against one another for the services of players, fans, etc. While Fraser leaves the door open for further discussion of MLS and the single entity exemption, recent developments in MLS have revealed a window for claims under the law of private associations. While the remedies are not as lucrative as the treble damages in antitrust cases, the law of private associations could require the league to change its practices.

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