Antitrust Law: Flood v. Kuhn
This is an excerpt from Case Studies in Sport Law-2nd Edition by Andrew Pittman,John O. Spengler & Sarah Young.
The primary federal laws that govern antitrust issues are the Sherman Act, Clayton Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, and Robinson-Patman Act. The cases in this section address these laws. The Sherman Act, for example, makes it unlawful for organizations to form a conspiracy in restraint of trade. Sports league teams, however, have unique characteristics that have required the courts to take a close look at the application of this law to them. This interesting area of law is addressed in the cases of Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women v. National Collegiate Athletic Association and Flood v. Kuhn. Other cases in this chapter address antitrust issues involving such subjects as coach and player salaries (Law v. NCAA), the movement of professional teams to new cities (Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission v. National Football League), draft and eligibility issues (Smith v. Pro Football, Inc.), and broadcasting rights (Chicago Professional Sports Limited Partnership v. National Basketball Association and National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma). The cases are interesting, and the questions are designed to strengthen your understanding of this complex but important body of law.
Flood v. Kuhn
407 U.S. 258 (1972)
For the third time in 50 years the Court is asked specifically to rule that professional baseball's reserve system is within the reach of the federal antitrust laws. "The reserve system, publicly introduced into baseball contracts in 1887, centers in the uniformity of player contracts; the confinement of the player to the club that has him under the contract; the assignability of the player's contract; and the ability of the club annually to renew the contract unilaterally, subject to a stated salary minimum. . . ."
At the age of 31, in October 1969, [Curtis] Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League in a multiplayer transaction. He was not consulted about the trade. He was informed by telephone and received formal notice only after the deal had been consummated. In December he complained to the Commissioner of Baseball and asked that he be made a free agent and be placed at liberty to strike his own bargain with any other major league team. His request was denied. Flood then instituted this antitrust suit in January 1970 in federal court for the Southern District of New York. The defendants (although not all were named in each cause of action) were the Commissioner of Baseball [Bowie K. Kuhn], the presidents of the two major leagues, and the 24 major league clubs. In general, the complaint charged violations of the federal antitrust laws and civil rights statutes, violation of state statutes and the common law, and the imposition of a form of peonage and involuntary servitude contrary to the Thirteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1994, 18 U.S.C. § 1581, and 29 U.S.C. §§ 102 and 103. Petitioner sought declaratory and injunctive relief and treble damages.
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