Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Ever Wonder Why NFL Apparel Is So Expensive?
January 14, 2010 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Is the National Football League a single entity or 32 individual businesses? That’s the question before the Supreme Court in the case of American Needle vs. NFL. American Needle (warning: heavy Flash), a Buffalo Grove, IL sport apparel manufacturer, claims the NFL’s exclusive contract with Reebok to manufacturer all NFL apparel is an anti-trust violation. The NFL counters that they are one entity, and thus, cannot conspire against themselves to restrict competition.

On Sunday, playoff-bound New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote an impassioned op-ed piece for the Washington Post siding against the very league who employs him, arguing that the NFL potentially being granted an anti-trust exemption could lead to owners "agree(ing) to end or severely restrict free agency, continue to enter into exclusive agreements that will further raise prices on merchandise, lock coaches into salary scales that don't reward them when they're promoted and set higher ticket prices (including preventing teams from competing through ticket discounts)." This issue was discussed in some detail yesterday on Talk of the Nation
posted by The Gooch (87 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would've sworn the league had an antitrust exemption. Or is that MLB?
posted by box at 9:53 AM on January 14, 2010


That's only MLB, I believe...

Good on Brees; the tyranny of sports owners is ripe for a little trimming. Right now in this economy it'll be harder to shakedown cities or Congress for new stadiums and tax breaks- or anti-trust exemption, so now's the time to start declaring these leagues a trust.
posted by hincandenza at 9:59 AM on January 14, 2010


American Needle (warning: heavy Flash), a Buffalo Grove, IL sport apparel manufacturer, claims the NFL’s exclusive contract with Reebok to manufacturer all NFL apparel is an anti-trust violation

Nitpicking here, but the issue isn't whether the licensing agreement is an antitrust violation. It certainly is. The league is contending that the licensing agreement shouldn't be subject to antitrust laws at all.

This line of argument is something of a hail-mary for the NFL (ha!) and is likely to be shot down by the SCOTUS, but if it isn't, it could have wide-ranging implications, most notably affecting the league's labor policies. Very interesting stuff.

I would've sworn the league had an antitrust exemption. Or is that MLB?

That's MLB. As one might expect, all other major leagues have written briefs supporting the NFL's case. They all want antitrust exemption like MLB has.
posted by jckll at 10:02 AM on January 14, 2010


Completely unrelated, but American Needle caught me waaaaay offguard by using Cylobotnia (Rephlex Records, home of Aphex Twin) as the backing music on their little flash thingie.
posted by fore at 10:03 AM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Part of the problem here seems to stem from the consuming public buying into the notions of "Official" or "Exclusively Licensed" team gear. It's a $15 hoodie with a sewn logo patch, so now it's worth $65? The easy solution is to either wear DIY gear and boycott the "official" crap.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:04 AM on January 14, 2010


Er, good on Brees for writing the op-ed, as many athletes either have no opinion, or parrot the company line- why upset the hand that feeds?

Glad to see this lawsuit occuring. If the league were to win on the grounds of being a 'single entity', would that then backfire with other legal implications? I'm curious about the legal perspective of when it's been advantageous to say "We're independent owners" and when it's to their benefit to say "We're a single league entity", and how nailing them down to one or the other could alter some of their actions.
posted by hincandenza at 10:05 AM on January 14, 2010


Dahlia Lithwick's column on the case. She's my favorite SCOTUS reporter.
posted by smackfu at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2010 [3 favorites]



It always comforts me when I see 'fans' walking down the street in outrageously priced 'official' sportswear. Especially when they are the folk crying about the cost of......
posted by notreally at 10:18 AM on January 14, 2010


The talk of ticket prices, parking and other stadium specific costs is throwing me for a little bit of a loop. I mean, people don't go to Eagles games because the tickets are cheaper than Giants games, right? It just seems like a stretch to say that NFL teams use ticket prices to compete for fans.
posted by hue at 10:19 AM on January 14, 2010


I do think it's absurd that the NFL can't buy itself an anti-trust exception in Congress. What's the world coming to when the people's Senators and Representatives won't line up to take money from the most popular sport in the country in exchange for any silly piece of legislation the League wants? It's not like we're talking about AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE like railroads, telephones, or operating systems here.

It's MADNESS, I tell you. And a waste of the Court's valuable time.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:27 AM on January 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


The easy solution is to either wear DIY gear and boycott the "official" crap.

Aren't any and all uses of NFL logos which are not somehow "official" or "licensed" a violation of trademark use, and potentially subject to legal action? I thought the reason behind the licensing of sports gear originally was to combat what was seen by the teams and the league as illegal practice of piracy regarding anything related to the teams -- colors, logos, nicknames, names, etc are all registered and may not be used without permission.

I'm sure that along with the marketing push which has created the market for the official gear within the public has been an enforcement push which has pushed vendors into not carrying (what the league regards as) pirated gear under threat of legal harassment.
posted by hippybear at 10:28 AM on January 14, 2010


So this will turn out to be a rehash of NCAA and Copperweld. Great.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:29 AM on January 14, 2010


At least we know the Lingerie Football League is two entities. Two jiggling entities...
posted by Joe Beese at 10:29 AM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well some teams could certainly compete on ticket prices; the two New York teams and the San Francisco bay teams come to mind.

And even in cases beyond close proximity teams compete with each other indirectly. Owners that want to instill good feelings in there fans can use ticket prices as evidence that their team is better (or a better value) than other teams. The good will generated could lead to bigger merchandise sales and stronger loyalty.
posted by wellsaid at 10:30 AM on January 14, 2010


It's a single entity with individually owned franchises. It operates like any other franchised business; i.e. with near total control over the outwardly visible operations of its franchisees.
American Needle doesn't stand a chance.
posted by rocket88 at 10:32 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now that I'm thinking about it a little more, how does this relate to EA's exclusive license to produce NFL video games?
posted by box at 10:36 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a single entity with individually owned franchises. It operates like any other franchised business; i.e. with near total control over the outwardly visible operations of its franchisees.
American Needle doesn't stand a chance.


So McDonald's is a "single entity" under anti-trust law? Not so sure about that. I'll have to get out some of my old anti-trust books. I did a little work one summer between 1L and 2L in antitrust and I don't think its as cut an dried as this. But haven't looked at this doctrine for some time.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:44 AM on January 14, 2010


It's a single entity with individually owned franchises.

Isn't the special issues that the single entity is a monopoly?
posted by smackfu at 10:45 AM on January 14, 2010


(Because otherwise it seems like any monopoly could use this strategy. Microsoft could spin off all their divisions as franchises and then centrally control them by having "regulations".)
posted by smackfu at 10:47 AM on January 14, 2010


Now that I'm thinking about it a little more, how does this relate to EA's exclusive license to produce NFL video games?

They have filed a brief in support of the NFL position.
posted by peeedro at 10:47 AM on January 14, 2010


It always comforts me when I see 'fans' walking down the street in outrageously priced 'official' sportswear. Especially when they are the folk crying about the cost of......

Which is why I watch for jerseys on sale or even clearance. Got a $80 Ernie Sims jersey for $22 after Xmas doing just that.
posted by grubi at 10:49 AM on January 14, 2010


Aren't any and all uses of NFL logos which are not somehow "official" or "licensed" a violation of trademark use, and potentially subject to legal action? I thought the reason behind the licensing of sports gear originally was to combat what was seen by the teams and the league as illegal practice of piracy regarding anything related to the teams -- colors, logos, nicknames, names, etc are all registered and may not be used without permission.

To expand on my comment, I was more thinking of DIY in terms of fans making their own gear, not bootleg sales. So, then you would see headlines like "Pittsburgh Steelers sue grandma for unlicensed scarf." I'm up for anything that would create tension between fans and team owners.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:52 AM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


They profit share and run their organization with democratic-socialist principals (except when it comes to ex-players). Not coincidentally they are the most successful of the major sports. Does that have anything to do with their single entity status?
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 10:57 AM on January 14, 2010


It's a single entity with individually owned franchises. It operates like any other franchised business; i.e. with near total control over the outwardly visible operations of its franchisees.
American Needle doesn't stand a chance.


Well, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 9th circuit courts have all rejected the single entity defense as it relates to the NFL in the past. So, in a word, no. The chances of the court affirming the single entity defense for he NFL, thereby giving it free reign over all decisions, is effectively nil.
posted by jckll at 10:59 AM on January 14, 2010


Well some teams could certainly compete on ticket prices; the two New York teams and the San Francisco bay teams come to mind.

It seems to me that the few exceptions here prove the rule. Even teams as close as Dallas/Houston wouldn't really be subject to this kind of competition. In those few cities that do have multiple teams, it seems like more often than not what you see is market segmentation where you have a high ticket and a low ticket team (cheap seats at Candlestick are apparently twice what they are for Raiders games based on season ticket prices) rather than any competition for the whole market in a shared city.

And even in cases beyond close proximity teams compete with each other indirectly. Owners that want to instill good feelings in there fans can use ticket prices as evidence that their team is better (or a better value) than other teams. The good will generated could lead to bigger merchandise sales and stronger loyalty.

I think the question becomes, down relative to what? Excepting those multi-team cities above (where I think some people probably are loyal because prices stay down and others are probably loyal to demonstrate they can pay the high price), I don't think people are really gauging their ticket prices against teams in other areas.
posted by hue at 11:15 AM on January 14, 2010


So McDonald's is a "single entity" under anti-trust law? Not so sure about that.
Does McDonald's have the right to tell franchisees what uniforms their employees can wear on the job and where they can buy them? I'm no expert but I'd be surprised if the answer was no.
posted by rocket88 at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2010


The concept of teams using ticket prices to compete for fans is a bit of a red herring anyway. The bigger issue at play here is - if the NFL gets their way, the league itself could potentially set prices on ALL NFL tickets.
posted by The Gooch at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2010


Drew Brees wrote an impassioned op-ed piece for the Washington Post siding against the very league who employs him

To be fair, he's arguing that he's employed by the New Orleans Saints.
posted by norm at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would've expected the NFL to go with a Nickel defense.
posted by srboisvert at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anything to wrest sports games away from EA, please.
posted by polyhedron at 11:22 AM on January 14, 2010


hue: In those few cities that do have multiple teams, it seems like more often than not what you see is market segmentation where you have a high ticket and a low ticket team [...] rather than any competition for the whole market in a shared city.

That's an interesting view. I would have thought that differing prices would indicate the presence, not the absence, of competition. For a while, Pepsi was (maybe still is?) the low-ticket version of Coca-Cola, at one point selling for half the price ("12 full ounces, that's a lot"). Were Pepsi and Coke competitors in the 1930s soda market?
posted by mhum at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2010


The chances of the court affirming the single entity defense for he NFL, thereby giving it free reign over all decisions, is effectively nil.

Which confuses me. Sports teams aren't competing with each other in the market sense. E.g., the Red Sox wouldn't benefit if the Yankees went out of business. Although the Orioles might. The ultimate product is the league itself.

Am I just missing something? Or is this one of those 'niggling details that distort the big picture' things?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2010


Anything to wrest sports games away from EA, please

Are you crazy? NHL 10, FIFA 10, and Madden 10 are excellent. Compare them any of the garbage put out by 2K Sports and you seem insane saying that.
posted by xmutex at 11:33 AM on January 14, 2010


Well that, of course, is the league's argument. But American Needle believes otherwise.
posted by jckll at 11:35 AM on January 14, 2010


I never understood why cities / counties didn't take a more assertive stance on this. When they put forth $850 million in tax revenue, they at least could bargain licensing rights for apparel, or make apparel non-exclusive with businesses in the city having a fixed fee to pay for licensing.
posted by geoff. at 11:37 AM on January 14, 2010


Drew Brees wrote an impassioned op-ed piece for the Washington Post siding against the very league who employs him

To be fair, he's arguing that he's employed by the New Orleans Saints.

Very good point - "siding against the very league he plays in" would have been more appropriate.
posted by The Gooch at 11:41 AM on January 14, 2010


xmutex.

It's not about the quality of the games, and I expected some response to that effect. To be sure EA is capable of making a high quality product. It's about the quality of EA, who has through shrewd American business practices quashed a whole lot of competition and controlled the direction of the game industry, in a way I find distasteful.

Unless you think EA couldn't compete without an exclusive NFL license, I'm not sure how it could possibly be a bad thing.
posted by polyhedron at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2010


The NFL counters that they are one entity, and thus, cannot conspire against themselves to restrict competition.

can someone please explain this to me? because it sounds like utter horseshit. like saying "we can't restrict competition because we've already become a monopoly!" so I think I need some kind of super dumbed down explanation of the law here.
posted by shmegegge at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2010


S - Monopoly isn't bad per se, monopolization through conspiracy or through a firm's own anticompetitive practices is what the Sherman Act goes after. There's no conspiracy when a one entity (parent corporation and a wholly owned subsidiary, for instance) act as one because there isn't any conspiracy between units that would ordinarily compete. If the NFL is in fact a single entity (doubtful), then conspiracy among teams (firms) as the theory of harm is out.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:00 PM on January 14, 2010


You're confusing "we are one entity" with "we've already become a monopoly."

The crux of the dispute is whether the 32 NFL teams do in fact represent one entity--the NFL as a whole--or if they are separate and distinct businesses.

If they, collectively, represent one entity, then they need not compete with one another. This would be like forcing the Borders on Main Street to undercut the Borders on State Street in the interest of competition.

Dumbed down, yes, but that's what you asked for.
posted by jckll at 12:03 PM on January 14, 2010


Everyone's talking about the far-reaching implications of an NFL win. What about the implications of an American Needle win? Locally manufactured jerseys? Niche team merchandise by OBEY or Upper Playground? Non-EA video games based around specific teams and players? Non-season games?
posted by roll truck roll at 12:08 PM on January 14, 2010


Drew Brees plays for the Saints, but his contract is sanctioned by the NFL. Yes it is controlled by the Saints (and they can void it any time they want by the way, but don't get me started on NFL contracts) but it is an NFL contract. If he gets traded to Duh Bears (oh, I wish!) his contract terms remain the same by default - unless that contract is renegotiated.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 12:11 PM on January 14, 2010


The NFL is not a monopoly. Their product is football entertainment, and in this market they compete primarily with the NCAA, and to a lesser extent with the new UFL, whatever the currently operating indoor leagues are called, and with the CFL in some markets. They no more have a monopoly on football than Subway does on sandwiches.
posted by aaronetc at 12:22 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, xmutex, 2KSports did make a really good football game. It was in many ways better than the Madden series; it was also cheaper.

EA's unwillingness,or inability, to compete is what prompted them to purchase the exclusive rights.

Tell me that doesn't hurt the consumer.
posted by wellsaid at 12:22 PM on January 14, 2010


> I mean, people don't go to Eagles games because the tickets are cheaper than Giants games, right? It just seems like a stretch to say that NFL teams use ticket prices to compete for fans.

Isn't it a related argument that leads to broadcast blackouts for home games? That selling tickets for the stadium competes against the price fans pay to watch the same game at home, because all means of witnessing the game are identical experiences? Whether or not it's a bullshit argument, it was successful enough for the MLB to get its way.
posted by ardgedee at 12:23 PM on January 14, 2010


> Does McDonald's have the right to tell franchisees what uniforms their employees can wear on the job and where they can buy them?

I don't think McDonald's is a fair analogy, because there's plenty of competition in the fast-food hamburger market (I believe there was a video to that effect posted just yesterday), both at the franchise level and at the national corporate level.

However, if you want to watch football on TV, your only real options are NCAA and NFL. And I'd argue that they're cooperating with each other more than they compete against each other.
posted by ardgedee at 12:28 PM on January 14, 2010


As an aside, I always notice that the high-profile players don the latest licensed cap as soon as they hit the sideline. Usually someone hands it to them.

I assume that this practice is one of the conditions of employment for high profile players, or maybe it's in their contract and they receive extra compensation for it.

Does anyone know about this?
posted by Danf at 1:06 PM on January 14, 2010


Idea, assign the exclusive deal for each team to their city, thus allowing the cities to squeeze the manufacturers.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:22 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the NFL loses this the first thing that is going to happen is that Jerry Jones is going to absolutely destroy the league. For years the Rooney's and the Mara's of the world have been holding back the "new breed" of owners who want to end revenue sharing and the common TV contract. I sort of agree with the consensus that the NFL is probably SOL - but don't think the NFL winning is going to make the league better. And Brees (and the players) are against it because you can now make an argument that salary caps are collusive - which is what the EU has said about capping professional soccer. So basically if you are a fan of a small market team and this passes you are fucked.

If you want the NFL to lose then I just hope you realize you are on the side of Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder.
posted by JPD at 1:24 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


but don't think the NFL winning is going to make the league better

Lose. Lose is what I meant.
posted by JPD at 1:26 PM on January 14, 2010


EA's unwillingness,or inability, to compete is what prompted them to purchase the exclusive rights.

Tell me that doesn't hurt the consumer.


It doesn't. What hurts the consumer is playing anything made by 2K Sports.
posted by xmutex at 1:30 PM on January 14, 2010


As an aside, I always notice that the high-profile players don the latest licensed cap as soon as they hit the sideline. Usually someone hands it to them.

I assume that this practice is one of the conditions of employment for high profile players, or maybe it's in their contract and they receive extra compensation for it.

Does anyone know about this?


Players are compensated, in one way or another, for every logo you see on every piece of equipment. Some players, such as quarterbacks, have additional contracts, on top of a standard base administrated by the players union, for gear like hats, beanies and such at specific times. The union also handles things like player trading cards and other items.

The NFL has additional rules about licensed gear on the sidelines -- for example, there are a fixed number of players that can wear Nike gear, a fixed number of Reebok players, etc, and everyone else has to wear NFL standardized gear (which used to be Apex; I don't know what it is now), or cover up logos with tape.

So, let's say you're a fringe player that never gets off the bench. You get your salary, your benefits (which are substantial), and a check from the player's union for the standardized stuff and trading cards, etc. If you're a high-profile guy, you'll get all of the above, and then an extra check for the extra stuff, like the hat on the sidelines.

And yes, the NFL has "uniform police" that wander the sidelines, enforcing rules and handing out fines, because some guys hate the standardized gear for quality reasons, or try to sneak in things for which they're being compensated outside of the system, or try to make some other kind of statement that the NFL doesn't like.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's not surprising to learn that the people least likely to express a preference for the NFL are those with postgraduate educations.

So the more educated you are, the less you like football. Makes sense to me (though I have zero post-graduate education). The more educated I've become, the less I care about the NFL or any football.

I do agree with Brees' opinion, though I have little knowledge of antitrust law. Also, salary caps are collusive.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:26 PM on January 14, 2010


Yeah, people with graduate degrees mostly prefer the college game.
posted by box at 2:40 PM on January 14, 2010


high-profile players don the latest licensed cap as soon as they hit the sideline. Usually someone hands it to them.

To be honest, if there was someone standing by to hand me a monogrammed cap and t-shirt everytime I won something, it would be awesome.
posted by smackfu at 2:49 PM on January 14, 2010


Also, salary caps are collusive.

And the New York Yankees are unholy. Collusive > unholy.
posted by xmutex at 3:05 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


> As an aside, I always notice that the high-profile players don the latest licensed cap as soon as they hit the sideline. Usually someone hands it to them.

In football? I suspect it's more that the trainers are trying to keep from shedding too much heat too quickly (although, they no doubt have the latest and greatest apparel at hand, courtesy of the sponsors.) As Papa Bell mentioned, players are policed about what they wear on the field (and how they wear it.)

NASCAR is where they get nutty with the hats, but that's generally only if you've won the race.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:35 PM on January 14, 2010


If the leagues want a special set of rules let them go to congress and get something passed that gives them legal status. Also why shouldn't Dan Synder or Jerry Jones be able to hire the best players they can afford. What is the moral objection with owners who have teams that make tons of money and want to pay money to hire the best talent available and win games to reward the fans who've waited 22 years to get their season tickets.
posted by humanfont at 4:14 PM on January 14, 2010


why shouldn't they? Ask a Pirates fan or a Royals fan. Ask any fan of spanish soccer not from Madrid or Barcelona or an English fan not from Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea

Or ask why the NFL and the NBA surpassed MLB as the US' favorite sports since 1970.

I mean I'm a Giants fan - the demise of revenue sharing benefits me as a fan. But in the long run its the bad thing for the league. But really my point is that this lawsuit isn't about apparel contracts. Its about much much bigger money then that.

And Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder think eliminating revenue sharing is going to line their pockets - what they don't realize is that what it really means is they'll end up paying their players more. They aren't doing it because they want to put a better product on the field.
posted by JPD at 4:32 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, salary caps are collusive.

Which is why you need the player's union to agree to it in a collective-bargaining agreement. Strangely, the one organization that wouldn't need a CBA to install a cap is major-league baseball, because of the antitrust exemption, and yet they DON'T have a cap, and DO have an agreement in their CBA that outlaws collusion. Which speaks to the relative power of the players' union in that sport. They apparently know where all the bodies are buried.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:40 PM on January 14, 2010


> Also why shouldn't Dan Synder or Jerry Jones be able to hire the best players they can afford.

OK, so the Redskins "win" and drive the other teams out of business. Now what?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:25 PM on January 14, 2010


They apparently know where all the bodies are buried.

For some reason I read that as all the hoodies are buried. All the MLB-licensed hoodies.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:29 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know why everyone is complaining about expensive NFL gear. I found a great website from Hong Kong selling official merchandise at very low prices.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:30 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Does McDonald's have the right to tell franchisees what uniforms their employees can wear on the job and where they can buy them? I'm no expert but I'd be surprised if the answer was no."

This is a terrible analogy on so many levels. First off, this isn't about the NFL telling their employees what they can wear and where they buy it, this is about the NFL telling their individual franchises that those franchises don't have the ability to negotiate their own deals with regard to intellectual property. The Detroit Lions aren't owned by the NFL, they're owned by the Ford family.

There are other football leagues; there used to be many more, and now the other leagues that I know of are either in other countries or play fundamentally different games. Even still, if the Lions want to leave the NFL and play in a different league (perhaps against children and the disabled to ensure a more even match), they can. You can't decide that your McDonald's is now just Bob's McDonald's and pull out of the McDonald's licensing agreements.
posted by klangklangston at 8:57 PM on January 14, 2010


OK, so the Redskins "win" and drive the other teams out of business. Now what?

Having the highest payroll only increases your chances of winning it does not assure it. Before 1994 and the introduction of the salary cap there were plenty of small market teams that won the Superbowl.
posted by humanfont at 11:14 PM on January 14, 2010


Before 1994 and the introduction of the salary cap there were plenty of small market teams that won the Superbowl.

there was revenue sharing and an equally shared TV contract though - which allowed small teams to remain competitive in paying for talent. The salary cap is only important for parity reasons if revenues aren't shared.
posted by JPD at 4:26 AM on January 15, 2010


I found a great website from Hong Kong selling official merchandise at very low prices.

Not likely. You found a great website from Hong Kong selling counterfeit merchandise at very low prices. The counterfeiting of NFL apparel is quite widespread.
posted by grubi at 5:03 AM on January 15, 2010


Surely this boils down to one highly hypothetical point. Imagine if a rival league starts up and is successful. Do NFL teams have the potential to resign from the NFL and join this new league, or not?

If the answer is yes (no matter how unlikely) then the teams are individual businesses. If the answer is no, then the NFL might well have a case.

There are teams in the NFL who were absorbed from another defunct league - the (original) Browns and the 49ers, and that's not counting the AFL/NFL merger.
posted by salmacis at 5:17 AM on January 15, 2010


I've always liked Bill Belichick's reaction to NFL licensing: Apparently the man is typically a snappy dresser. However, once the NFL contracted with Reebok, all coaches were required to wear Reebok apparel. In response, he decided to wear the ugliest sweatshirts that were contractually acceptable and cut the sleeves off in order to throw it back in the league's face for telling him what to wear.
posted by Beefs at 5:48 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before 1994 and the introduction of the salary cap there were plenty of small market teams that won the Superbowl.

You make it sound like big market teams have had inordinate success since 1994.

Super Bowl winners since 1994: S.F., Dallas, Green Bay, Denver, Denver, St. Louis, Baltimore, New England, Tampa Bay, New England, New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New York, Pittsburgh.

I'd call that a rough 50-50 split between big and small.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:38 AM on January 15, 2010


Surely this boils down to one highly hypothetical point. Imagine if a rival league starts up and is successful. Do NFL teams have the potential to resign from the NFL and join this new league, or not?

I believe they do, but I'm no expert. Does anyone know?

cut the sleeves off in order to throw it back in the league's face for telling him what to wear.

Hmm. That's not what I heard. veggieburger

The Belichick hood.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:04 AM on January 15, 2010


You found a great website from Hong Kong selling counterfeit merchandise at very low prices.

Counterfeit is the wrong word. You can counterfeit money, because the bill is being passed off as currency, but is not in fact currency. A "counterfeit hoodie" would be a garment passed off as a hoodie, but not actually a hoodie. An unlicensed Patriots football jersey is merely unlicensed, but it's not "counterfeit."

Certainly, a number of glaring errors like the wrong colors or saying "Patriets" might cause it to fall within the definition of "counterfeit." A perfect reproduction that's merely unlicensed? I'd say it is a Patriots jersey, not a "counterfeit."
posted by explosion at 9:05 AM on January 15, 2010


It is counterfeit if it is attempting look authentic. Even if it *looks* authentic, that doesn't diminish the counterfeit-ness.
posted by grubi at 9:15 AM on January 15, 2010


coun⋅ter⋅feit  [koun-ter-fit]
–adjective
1. made in imitation so as to be passed off fraudulently or deceptively as genuine; not genuine; forged: counterfeit dollar bills.

-- Dictionary.com

So, yeah, counterfeit.
posted by grubi at 9:18 AM on January 15, 2010


I have to semantically agree: counterfeit. A perfect reproduction of a dollar bill that wasn't made by the U.S. Treasury is still a counterfeit dollar. (Now if finding the differences are impossible ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:03 AM on January 15, 2010


> I have to semantically agree: counterfeit. A perfect reproduction of a dollar bill that wasn't made by the U.S. Treasury is still a counterfeit dollar. (Now if finding the differences are impossible ...)

I have to pedantically inquire: Is a perfect, er, production of a three dollar bill that was never made by the U.S. Treasury still a counterfeit? Because that's a better analogy for a lot of 'counterfeit' goods.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:33 AM on January 15, 2010


What a weird swerve this conversation has taken, after what was pretty obviously a joke by furiousxgeorge.

I have to pedantically inquire: Is a perfect, er, production of a three dollar bill that was never made by the U.S. Treasury still a counterfeit? Because that's a better analogy for a lot of 'counterfeit' goods.

Is it a joke three-dollar bill, like the ones you see at gift stores? Or is it created for the purpose of tricking people into thinking three-dollar bills are real? If it's the former, then it's not a counterfeit. If it's the latter, I'd say it is.

I think that "fake" NFL merchandise would be more analogous to the joke three-dollar bill. It's price is based on what it's worth to the buyer as an object, not on its similarity to "genuine" objects. In fact, since the NFL is arguing that the merchandise is primarily an advertising venue, you could call their bluff and say that fake merchandise helps them.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:58 AM on January 15, 2010


MetaFilter: What a weird swerve this conversation has taken...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:04 AM on January 15, 2010


I think counterfeit requires intent of deception. The execution is beside the point.
posted by grubi at 11:09 AM on January 15, 2010


I think that "fake" NFL merchandise would be more analogous to the joke three-dollar bill.

Only if the buyer knows it's fake. There are plenty of people who think they got a "sweet deal" on genuine NFL gear, but got taken.
posted by grubi at 11:10 AM on January 15, 2010


Only if the buyer knows it's fake. There are plenty of people who think they got a "sweet deal" on genuine NFL gear, but got taken.

How were they 'taken?' They have their gear.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:19 AM on January 15, 2010


How were they 'taken?' They have their gear.

They were taken because they have bought into the "only buy the genuine, licensed gear" marketing and propaganda by the sports league, and it was likely sold to them with some kind of tag attached which stated that it was genuine and licensed. Probably also with some kind of hologram attached, as that seems to be the popular way for sports leagues to "prove" that the correct maker put out the article in question. I used to see this kind of thing a lot at flea markets, actually, when I was going to them with any kind of regularity. The thing is, without an official tag and hologram to compare the counterfeits to, there is no way of knowing that what you're buying is something that was made without the express written consent of the league or whatever.

So, it's not that they were denied purchase of a garment, it is that the garment they have does not have the provenance that they were led to believe it had.
posted by hippybear at 11:43 AM on January 15, 2010


In addition, many counterfeits are of shoddier quality. At least with genuine gear, you can complain to the manufacturer.
posted by grubi at 11:48 AM on January 15, 2010


the "only buy the genuine, licensed gear" marketing and propaganda by the sports league

Truth be told, it isn't just simple propaganda. When you purchase a player's jersey, that player gets a cut. And, yes, if I am a fan, I'd prefer to have Barry Sanders to have a cut of the money I spent.
posted by grubi at 11:56 AM on January 15, 2010


Barry Sanders? Do retired players get a cut of the sale of throwback jerseys? What if they're dead? Man, that must be a nightmare to manage.
posted by box at 12:05 PM on January 15, 2010


From what I understand, managing royalties is part of what the NFL Players' Association does. Including retired players.
posted by grubi at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2010


Do retired players get a cut of the sale of throwback jerseys?

Retired players get a pension and healthcare administered by the players' union. That pension is driven by union dues and the merchandising done in partnership with the NFL, spelled out in their overarching agreement. Bigger name, bigger salary, more valuable merch = bigger pension. If the Chicago Bears sell an officially licensed throwback Dick Butkus jersey, they have to first clear it with the union, which then cuts Butkus a check.

Moreover, retired players can make money merchandising their old images separately from the team and the union. For example, sales of autographed cards, photos and other merch.

What if they're dead?

The same thing happens when anyone drawing a pension or owning an estate dies -- will and/or probate.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:21 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older John Tierney's thoughts on Jaron Lanier's new book...  |  An expert in Elizabethan handw... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments