The NFL proposed a squad player salary of $ 1,000 per week. The union, however, insisted that the club owners give squad players benefits and protections similar to those provided regular players. After negotiations on the issue of developmental squad salaries reached an impasse, the NFL unilaterally implemented the developmental squad program by distributing to the clubs a uniform contract that embodied the terms of the program and the $ 1,000 proposed weekly salary. In 1990, 235 squad players brought suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the NFL and its member clubs, in which suit it was claimed that the employers' agreement to pay the squad players a $ 1,000 weekly salary violated the Sherman Act (15 USCS 1 et seq.).
The District Court dismissed the petitioner's complaint. Thus, the case was brought to the Court of Appeals, which upheld the decision of the lower court. Petitioner then elevated the case to the Supreme Court on a writ of certiorari.
A. The Supreme Court on certiorari said that the nonstatutory labor exemption shields from federal antitrust attack an agreement among several employers bargaining together to implement, after a collective bargaining impasse, the terms of the employers' last best good-faith wage offer.
C. B. With respect to the application of the nonstatutory labor exemption to multiemployer collective bargaining, there was no basis for distinguishing football players from other organized workers.
C. Stevens, J., expressed the view that neither the policies underlying the labor and antitrust statutory schemes, nor the purpose of the nonstatutory exemption, provided a justification for exempting from antitrust scrutiny collective action initiated by employers to depress wages below the level that would be produced in a free market.
REACTION TO THE CASE
The antitrust exemption applies to the employer conduct at issue here, which took place during and immediately after a collective-bargaining negotiation; grew out of, and was a directly related to, the lawful operation of the bargaining process; involved a matter that the parties were required to negotiate collectively; and concerned only the parties to the collective-bargaining relationship. The Court's holding is not intended to insulate from antitrust review every joint imposition of terms by employers, for an employer agreement could be sufficiently distant in time and in circumstances from the bargaining process that a rule permitting antitrust intervention would not significantly interfere with that process. The Court need not decide in this case