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Golf’s Civil War: The Antitrust Lessons to Learn from the PGA Tour’s Rivalry with LIV Golf

Posted by on Monday, May 6, 2024 in Notes, Volume 26, Volume 26, Issue 3.

Nic Vandeventer | 26 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 585 (2024)

The regulation of professional sports leagues under the Sherman Act presents a unique and, up to this point, unsolved problem. Increased regulation of the United States’ beloved sports is not something that many US citizens would necessarily welcome. And yet, courts are consistently confronted with the dilemma of checking competition “off the field” while attempting to leave unaffected the competition “on the field.” In doing so, courts must reconcile the principles and objectives of the Sherman Act (the Act) with the restraints necessary for the success of sports as an enterprise. While mirroring some of the aspects of traditional trade and business usually subject to the Sherman Act, the inescapable fact is that sports leagues are unique entities and, as such, require different perspectives in the application of governing law.

Using a now-resolved lawsuit filed against the PGA Tour as a case study, this Note explores the application of the Sherman Act to professional sports leagues and how the results have led to an inconsistent, noncommittal string of decisions, leaving the state of the law in flux. Furthermore, this Note addresses the proposition of a more consistent application of the Sherman Act and its intricacies, comparing economically grounded goals of preserving “on the field” competition with the Act’s inherent goals of promoting a competitive “off the field” marketplace.

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