Illinois-based American Needle, a company that dates back to 1918, had been producing NFL-licensed caps and apparel for nearly 20 years.
All that changed, however, in 2001 when the NFL awarded an exclusive contract to Reebok.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, sales of NFL gear represented nearly 25 percent of American Needle’s annual sales.
The family-owned business sued the NFL claiming they restricted competition and violated antitrust laws by acting as one entity rather than 32 independently-owned teams.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of American Needle, a ruling with significant ramifications for other sports ventures.
As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his decision, “Decisions by NFL teams to license their separately-owned trademarks collectively and to only one vendor are decisions that deprive the marketplace of…actual or potential competition.”
Photo by American Needle.