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2011 NFL Lockout: Opening The Antitrust Can Of Worms

As we sit and wait for the NFL and NFLPA to sort out their courtroom mess, it's worth noting that the resolution of this courtroom battle will not necessarily result in the resolution of the underlying antitrust lawsuit the players have brought against the NFL.

While I remain convinced the lawsuit is being used as a negotiating tool to gain some measure of leverage, it is entirely possible some measure of the players "union" means business with trying to shake up the NFL via this antitrust lawsuit. An antitrust lawsuit could absolutely blow the NFL wide open and change things entirely. The question is whether such changes would be for the better or the worse.

I bring all this up now for two reasons. First is a comment reedkrase made in the capitalists FanPost. I've posted the comment in its entirety after the jump. Additionally, there's an excellent article at a legal blog called Prawfsblawg. The article discusses how some of the comments made in last Friday's oral arguments could lead to huge changes in the way the NFL operates.

If the league was operated within the bounds of normal antitrust laws, we'd be looking at a potentially completely free market. It could be a league with no draft, no salary cap, no nothing. Some players might think this is a great thing, but it's possible many players would suffer under this in terms of decreased earnings potential. You'd see the top end players moving up into some unknown stratosphere while the bottom end conceivably drops down.

Of course, given this would be a new market it's hard to predict exactly what would happen. We've never had a completely free market of football players who can pick and choose their employer right out of college. Would this turn into a bit more like international soccer leagues with some teams just dropping into oblivion while other teams spend outrageous sums of money?

MLB has some issues with the top end teams spending huge sums of money, but they've still got some of the necessary mechanisms in place to allow smaller market teams to attempt to remain competitive. If you remove all protections from antitrust laws, we could see drastic changes to the league most of us still love (minus their stubborn nature right now).

It's hard for me to fully fathom the potential outcome of the players' antitrust lawsuit. Would people prefer that kind of insanity? It would make for interesting changes year in and year out. But is it worth it?

reedkrase comment:

Capitalism is simply an economic model based on unfettered (or unrestrained) competition between everyone involved in the market. If any actor involved in the market is not competing for participation, then it's not capitalism.

The owners are colluding to act in their collective interest as a "league" not in the individual interests of their particular team. Just because they are rich and acting out of greed doesn't make them capitalists. The owners are the very definition of anti-capitalists.

First, there should be no draft, each player should be a free agent from day one to contract with any team. Second, there should be no salary cap, the market is supposed to dicatate salaries. Third, teams should be publically owned and traded on one of the major stock exchanges to allow them to raise capital necessary to build new stadiums. Bonds have been around for hundreds of years now and funded hundreds of thousands of companies' capital investments.

Efficiently managed teams would negotiate good contracts with the right players, raise money for the best stadium the market will support and be profitable businesses. Poorly managed teams would fall by the wayside. That's capitalism and that's what the players wanted in 1987.

Rooting for the owners is like rooting for USSR in the 1980s.