South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Professional Football Rule Restricting Draft Eligibility Exempt from Antitrust Review
Description Appeals court held that a former college football player was not eligible to participate in the NFL draft until he was at least three years out of high school, as the NFL requires. Since the NFL players have union representation, the NFL is generally exempt from antitrust review on matters of labor policy.
Topic Antitrust
Key Words Exemption; Collective Bargaining; Employment
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Clarett, a former running back for the Ohio State University football team, wished to make himself available for the National Football League (NFL) player draft. The NFL has a rule that a player must be three full college football seasons removed from high school graduation before they are eligible for the draft. Clarett sued the NFL for violating the Sherman Act and the trial court agreed, holding that Clarett must be allowed to enter the draft. The NFL appealed.

Reversed. The NFL players are unionized and have exclusive bargaining representation. That prohibits a prospective player from negotiating directly certain terms and conditions of employment with any NFL club. The NFL, or any club, would commit an unfair labor practice if it bargained with a player individually without the union's consent. The rule regarding eligibility for the NFL draft falls within the subject of collective bargaining and is within the scope of the exemption to antitrust review under the Sherman Act. While the NFL and the union had not specifically bargained over this particular issue, it is a matter that concerns the terms and conditions of employment, and is under the labor exemption. Clarett is not eligible for the draft until he is three years removed from high school.

Citation Clarett v. National Football League, --- F.3d --- (2004 WL 1146734, 2nd Cir., 2004)

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