Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Reggie Bush Sweepstakes
Oh those NFL schedule makers. How do they do it? The final week in the NFL pits Houston against San Francisco with so much at stake one can barely watch the game. The loser, of course, wins the Reggie Bush sweepstakes, a prize more valuable than any division crown. In this season of watching fans root for their team to lose, it’s time to challenge the bedrock assumption of the American professional sports monopolies: the necessity of a college draft with the worst teams getting the top picks.
The rationale has been the subject of so much propaganda no one challenges the concept: We do it for the fans; otherwise the same teams will get all the best players and win every year and the smaller market fans will have nothing to root for.
Actually, the more accurate term is monopsony not monopoly since the leagues control the buying of talent not the selling: they are the only source to which the players may sell their services.
But why shouldn’t Reggie Bush be able to market his considerable talent to the highest bidder or, heaven forbid, live and work in a city of his choosing with professionals with whom he chooses to associate. Isn’t that what the rest of us get to do when we look for a job?
Let’s look at that assumption again. The NCAA, with all its other faults, does seem to operate rather competitively without a draft of high school players to the colleges in reverse order of how they finished the prior year. Each year the upsets in the NCAA basketball tournament make your picks in the office pool worthless by the Sweet Sixteen. Even if Duke does seem to get more than its share of All-Americans, it does so by offering the most to its recruits: a great coach, a quality education, a history of not simply using its young talent but helping them grow into quality human beings. Shouldn’t college athletes get to choose their employers by similar criteria?
The English and European soccer leagues stay competitive without the privilege of monopsony power. So does virtually every profession outside of the American sports world. The truth is: the reason for the draft is to control competition in the market not on the playing field. So the top players can’t field offers from those otherwise willing to pay them what the free market says they are worth. That is what monopsonies do and, except in the American sports world, that is why they are illegal.