As the lockout stretches into the end of it’s first week, they may start feeling some actual outside pressure from the United States government, even if it’s not directly from the president’s office. Representative John Conyers of Michigan has issued a statement saying that he will seek to have the NFL’s anti-trust exemption overturned
Obviously football fans don’t like this, but this is a much bigger issue than sports. The NFL is a $9 billion a year industry. If this lockout goes on, hundreds of thousands of workers may be laid off, and scores of local communities could be harmed economically.
As a result, later today, I will be introducing legislation to repeal the broadcast television antitrust exemption with regard to professional football.
After Judge David Doty ruled in favor of the players in not letting the owners use TV money they had specifically apportioned out for themselves in the event of a lockout, the players were emboldened enough to not take the owners last few offers in mediations and carry on with their plan to dissolve the player’s union. The more important good sign for the players though, as Doug Farrar has previously pointed out, was the large number of inferences in Doty’s ruling that the NFL had acted in bad faith and was engaging in collusion.
It’s hard to say what is legitimate and what is real when it comes to Congressional interests over sports, but the threat of having anti-trust hearings brought against them can only weaken the owner’s position. The NFLPA may have failed in the early P.R. battle, as Chris Watkins reported on this weekend, but it’s pretty clear that they have most of the momentum in this feud right now. Should Congress actually step in, the NFL will be under immense pressure to cut a deal.