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Tuesday, November 24, 2009
2010 AALS Sports and the Law Section Meeting and Panel

For those of you attending the Association of American Law Schools' 2010 annual meeting in New Orleans in January, Villanova Law Professor David Caudill, the Chair of the AALS Section on Sports and the Law, invites you to attend this year's section meeting and panel, which will be held from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m in the Elmwood Room (3rd Floor) of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.

Below are details on the section's events:

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OVERVIEW: When the NFL opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA, the stage was set for contentious negotiations during the 2009 season and potentially beyond. A labor-related stoppage or lockout could result from a failure to come to terms. The topic for this year’s sports law panel will be the present state of labor negotiations within the NFL. The NFL owners will likely predict an economic crisis if the players make unreasonable demands in terms of percentage of revenue, salary cap, bonus provisions, and the rookie wage scale, while the players’ union will likely claim that the owners never had it so good. Perhaps the real Super Bowl for sports lawyers will take place around the bargaining table this year.

PROGRAM: To open the program, Professor Robert H. Topel, the Isidore Brown and Gladys J. Brown Professor in Urban and Labor Economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, will discuss his controversial study (co-authored with Chicago colleague Professor Kevin Murphy), on behalf of the NFLPA, of the economics of the NFL. What was the NFL’s response to the study? Has the recession altered any of the conclusions of that study?

Next, three law professors will address various aspects of the NFL/NFLPA labor controversy:

Professor Emeritus Bob Berry (Boston College): “Show Me the Money Revisited: The Current NFL Labor Conundrums”.

In the past, dating from the 1960s to the 1990s, NFL labor confrontations often concentrated on player mobility issues. The draft, free agency and free agent compensation were contentious issues, resulting in work stoppages on more than one occasion. This year is different, or seems to be. Pure economic issues appear to be largely the basis of the current negotiations. The question is, however, whether anything has really changed. Has it always been about the money? An even more basic issue is why at this time there is already talk of a lockout and a possible attempt at union decertification. While all these are brewing, we might as well revisit possible antitrust issues under the labor exemption.

Professor Matt Mitten (Marquette): “Drug testing and Sports Medicine Issues in NFL Collective Bargaining: A Proposed Quid Pro Quo.”

Specific issues to be discussed: (1) NFL clubs’ characterization of team physicians as “employees” in effort to bar players’ medical malpractice claims by the worker’s compensation co-employee doctrine; and (2) the 8th Circuit’s recent Williams v NFL decision, which permits the NFL’s collectively bargained drug testing policy to be challenged on the ground it violates Minnesota state law.

Professor Jeff Standen (Willamette): “American Needle and the Threat of Union Decertification”

This paper argues that the American Needle case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court will impact heavily on the upcoming labor negotiations. If the NFL prevails in its argument that the league constitutes a "single entity" for all or certain legal purposes, then a chief NFLPA bargaining tactic, the threat of union decertification, would be unavailable. Decertifying the players union arguably strips the NFL's bargaining agent of its non-statutory labor exemption and exposes the league to antitrust liability. If the NFL, however, is characterized by the Supreme Court as a single entity, then the league would be effectively immune from antitrust claims. The paper suggests that the Court should adopt a nuanced perspective on the single entity theory in order to preserve the ability of the union to resort to judicial redress.

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It should be a great event and I look forward to attending.


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