In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that NFL teams don't possess "the complete unity of interest" needed for an exemption. Rather, each team is a separately owned business competing vigorously against the others, both on and off the field."
In a statement released Monday, the NFL Players Association contended that the American Needle case, which dealt with licensing agreements for player apparel (in this instance NFL hats), would have had much wider ramifications had the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the league. "Although the case arose from an apparel license, the case and today's decision have a broad impact on the business of the NFL as a whole. Had the court allowed the NFL to evade the anti-trust laws, ticket prices would have increased, free agency would have ended or been crippled, the way we watch football on television would have fundamentally altered and our state and local governments would have been held hostage by a league with a Court-issued license to run wild," the statement read.
While that seems a bit far-fetched, it does pose some questions heading into the future about the league's position that it is one company operating under one shield instead of 32 separate companies under the banner of the National Football League.
Where this decision may have ramifications is in the current legal challenges being made to the league's drug-testing policy. Pat Williams and Kevin Williams maintain the league's handling of their StarCaps case violated Minnesota laws concerning drug testing in the workplace. If the current view of the Supreme Court following the American Needle decision is that the NFL consists of 32 separate entities, it could undercut the effectiveness of a league-wide policy concerning the teams being viewed as a single unit.
While the American Needle decision may be a landmark of sorts in anti-trust law, it may serve as the case that opens the door to defining what role an organization like the Vikings has in the bigger picture of things in the NFL.