The NFL Is A Cartel?


How far apart are the two sides in getting a deal done?  Back on March 11th the league made a proposal to the players that bridged the billion dollar gap in year one to around 350,000.  The NFLPA didn’t respond with a counter offer.  Last week the magistrate judge overseeing the mediation asked the league to make another proposal to which the players have yet to make a counter offer to.

What the players reps did do was submit their papers to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the “Stay” ruling on the lockout.  The 89 page document outlined why the players are right and the league is wrong.  They also basically said that the judges who ruled in favor of allowing the “stay” are misguided.  On the opening page they said that the ruling would be a “perverse outcome” that “can be predicated only on a seriously erroneous construction of labor law, abetted by a misapprehension of the facts of this dispute.”

As ProFootballTalk called it, they basically said the judges were corrupt and/or stupid.

What is more baffling, at least to me, is that the legal team representing the players have now taken to calling the NFL and it’s owners a “Cartel”.  A word more directly associated with something bad like a “drug cartel”.  They used the term on three separate occasions.

Now whether or not they truly believe that to be the case or are simply trying to rally their own cause, it simply takes us to the realization that there is no way in hell these two sides will be sitting down any time soon and hashing out a new collective bargaining agreement.  The league has not filed their response to the court.  Both sides will be in court on June 3rd when the 8th Circuit opens the case for a final hearing.  A final hearing on whether Judge Susan Nelson had the authority and the legal rights to force the lifting of the lockout.

  • Gregg

    Definition: A cartel is a formal (explicit) agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices, marketing, and production.

    I enjoy this site and respect the opinions of the authors but I take exception to Mr. Millers accusation that the term “cartel” is derogatory and reserved for “drug” cartels.

    Cartel members may agree on such matters as price fixing, total industry output, market shares, allocation of customers, allocation of territories, bid rigging, establishment of common sales agencies, and the division of profits or combination of these. The aim of such collusion (also called the cartel agreement) is to increase individual members’ profits by reducing competition.

    So the NFL has assembled a group of
    businesses (each individual franchise) and weeded out all other competition (AFL, USFL, WFL…). Sounds like an accurate depiction of the NFL.

    Regardless, way gets get this season going.

  • robert

    The Federal Reserve is a Cartel. “Competing” businesses is the key. The Federal Reserve is a joining of competing separate private banks.

    The NFL is not a cartel. The teams only compete on the field. They act as one company though off of it. The Corporation is the NFL. The contracts the league signs with the networks, ie all the profit goes to the NFL as a whole and is distributed among the various entities. The teams aren’t competing – just look at the small market clubs compared to the large market clubs. As far as the free market is concerned the NFL is an Entertainment company selling content. That’s it. The teams are individual contributors of content to the whole that is the NFL.

    Is GE a cartel even though it owns NBC and has a completely separate retail division?
    Is Disney a Cartel? It owns ESPN, ABC, and Touchstone pictures, but runs them separately doesn’t it?

  • andrew

    i’m afraid that Gregg is right. by definition the NFL is a cartel. if you don’t like the “cartel” label, then you’d have to go with “monopoly.” in fact, the structure of the NFL is pretty similar in a lot of ways to the “chaebol” and “zaibatsu” of korea and japan, respectively. the point is that the NFL is indeed fixing competition because it agrees to regulate competition within certain bounds, and we all know what those are. to think of the NFL as just any other business is just deluded. and GE, by the way, enjoys a lot of government privileges as well. GE comes much closer to the “chaebol/zaibatsu” ideal than the NFL does – the NFL is more of a cartel

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