Monday, March 14, 2011
Conyers Introduces the PLAY Act, the “Prevent Lockout of Athletes This Year Act”
(Washington)- House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement regarding the National Football League’s lockout and the special broadcast television antitrust exemption enjoyed by professional football:
.... [L]ater today, I will be introducing legislation to repeal the broadcast television antitrust exemption with regard to professional football. We are taking this action for several reasons:
First, a recent court decision highlighted the potential for abuse of these specially protected television contract negotiations in the football context. A federal judge in Minnesota found that the league manipulated its broadcast contracts to build up a lockout fund and gain leverage against the players. Judge Doty found this was done in bad faith, and wrote that “the NFL undertook contract renegotiations to advance its own interests and harm the interests of the players.”
Second, the congressionally created antitrust exemption, dating from 1961, is a specially granted anomaly. No other business benefits from an antitrust exemption for television negotiations. Most professional sports do not have such an exemption – not soccer, not tennis, and not golf. And neither do any amateur sports – not the Olympics, not college football and not college basketball.
Third, at a time when the economy is struggling and the NFL has chosen to lock out its players, it is particularly inappropriate to allow the league to benefit from a special antitrust exemption. The lockout has been estimated to take at least $5.1 billion out of local economies around the nation. This will bring about significant economic harm in economically ravaged cities like Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Buffalo. In that context it is appropriate for Congress to revoke an exemption that serves to unbalance the playing field between the parties....