Supreme Court: NFL Teams Are Separate Entities

A suit filed by American Needle, Inc., against the National Football League (NFL) has resulted in a Supreme Court decision that denies the NFL antitrust protections, stating that the 32 teams in the league must be considered separate entities.

The lawsuit was brought by American Needle, a hat-making company, who found they couldn’t create NFL team hats because the NFL had signed a 10-year exclusivity agreement with Reebok. The case will now return to lower courts, where it seems highly likely that American Needle will continue to win in its battle against the NFL.

So how does this apply to gaming? Well, the NFL signed an exclusive deal with EA Sports so that the Madden series is the only series that can carry official teams, logos, stadiums and players. If the courts continue to rule in favor of American Needle, it could mean the end of exclusive NFL rights for the Madden franchise, which could bring back competition, particular from 2K Sports.

It will be interesting to see how the lower courts rule, and whether 2K and other competitors such as 505 Games, who are making Backbreaker, will pursue NFL licenses as well.

Frankly, the Madden series has, like all the EA Sports franchises in recent years, improved dramatically. Even if other franchises gain NFL rights, I can’t see anything supplanting Madden as the premiere football game. But, competition never hurts the fans, as developers must improve as they fight for sales.

USA Today