TJSL Professor Steven Semeraro was one of the featured speakers on the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s “All-Pro” panel on Friday, Sept. 30, that addressed antitrust and labor issues in professional sports – the same day that all eyes in the basketball world were watching for the outcome of meetings in New York between some of the NBA’s most prominent players and the team owners.
According to the LACBA, the focus of the program, titled “Personal Foul or Slam Dunk: Sports Leagues Confront Antitrust and Labor Issues,” was the often adversarial intersection of antitrust and labor issues, and the related strategies underlying the present disputes between the NFL and the NBA and their respective players’ associations. The panelists discussed legal disputes to date, summarized litigation highlights, explained the issues and tried to predict the outcome of the current sports league cases.
A 4 ½ month NFL lockout ended in late July with a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA). NBA owners locked out players on July 1 over disagreements about the division of revenues and salary cap system. The league postponed training camps and canceled 43 preseason games in October until the labor and antitrust issues are resolved.
“The NFL’s argument in the spring, and the NBA’s position now, amounts to this: ‘we should be immunized from antitrust attacks because years ago the players agreed to accept our blatant price fixing in a collective bargaining agreement,’” explained Professor Semeraro. “That makes no sense. If the players dissolve the union and disavow the desire for a CBA, there is no basis for immunizing agreements among the teams on salary caps, rookie salary restrictions, and other league rules that prohibit competition among the teams for players.”
Professor Semeraro previously worked for United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, where he led civil antitrust investigations of the optical disc and credit card industries. He has published numerous articles primarily in the fields of antitrust and criminal law, and teaches antitrust courses at TJSL. The other panelists included Maxwell M. Blecher (Blecher & Collins), Carole E. Handler (Lathrop & Gage LLP), Al Latham (Paul Hastings LLP) and John J. Shaeffer (Lathrop & Gage LLP).
The panel event was organized by the Antitrust and Unfair Business Practices Section of the LACBA, which sponsors programs and projects concerned with federal and state litigation practice, counseling, legislation and regulatory activity, all as related to antitrust and complex business torts law (including merger-and-acquisition, unfair-competition and trade-regulation cases).
The LACBA’s discussion foreshadows an upcoming sports conference event at TJSL in November called “The Bowl Championship Series and the Future of Big-Time Intercollegiate Football.” The program, presented by TJSL’s new Center for Sports Law & Policy, takes place November 17 -18 at the law school and will bring together leading lawyers and policy makers representing a wide range of viewpoints to examine legal and policy issues associated with the Bowl Championship Series and the future of big-time intercollegiate football.
According to Center Director and TJSL Distinguished Professor Rodney Smith, the Center was formed, in part, to help facilitate the exploration of major sports law and policy issues.
“In keeping with its commitment to fairness and balance, as it examines such issues, the Center has arranged for some very prominent speakers for the conference,” said Professor Smith. “For example, the Attorney General of Utah, who has initiated an antitrust action against the BCS, and attorneys representing the BCS will be in attendance, as will leading policy-makers representing a wide range of views, including Roy Kramer, former commissioner of the SEC, who is often referred to as the "father of the BCS," and a co-founder of the leading PAC opposing the BCS.”
“The issues discussed will reach well beyond whether we should continue with the BCS or have a national championship in big-time intercollegiate football. Participants will be responding in thoughtful ways to the broader, yet pressing, question: what is the future of big-time intercollegiate football?”
A complete schedule of speakers participating in the upcoming conference and registration information will be available soon at www.tjsl.edu