In the interest of parity on the playing field, the National Football League (“NFL”) Draft allows teams to select incoming rookies in an inverse-standing order relative to their record in the previous year. This player draft model places an unreasonable restraint on prospective players seeking employment with any other team outside of the team that selected the player, but the courts have exempted the restraints because the NFL Draft is a provision in the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (“NFL CBA”). This Comment argues that to protect the best interests of the incoming rookies, Congress needs to legislate the issue and abolish the NFL Draft.
Congress passed the Sherman Act to promote economic competition and discourage unreasonable restraints on competition. The courts, meanwhile, discovered the Sherman Act conflicts with national labor policies that promote collective bargaining between employers and employee unions. The NFL has used the court-created non-statutory labor exemption to skirt antitrust violations so long as the restrictive terms were collectively bargained. By deciding to exempt any restraints negotiated during the collective bargaining process, the courts essentially sided with collusion over competition. Congress must intervene and come up with an equitable solution that favors economic competition.
Part I provides background of the NFL Draft, including the draft’s history and the entry rules enshrined in the NFL Constitution and Bylaws and the current NFL CBA. Part II analyzes how courts have reviewed antitrust and labor issues surrounding the NFL CBA. Part III illustrates the issues that arise from the bargaining relationship between the NFL and the NFL players’ union (“NFLPA”). Part IV introduces a proposal to Congress to abolish the NFL Draft in the interest of public policy reasons surrounding negotiating on fair market value, the growing trend of player autonomy, and the NFL Draft’s detrimental effects on competitiveness in the NFL.