Powell v. National Football League, Civ. No. 4-87-917

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
Writing for the CourtDOTY
Citation764 F. Supp. 1351
PartiesMarvin POWELL, Brian Holloway, Michael Kenn, Michael Davis, James Lofton, Michael Luckhurst, Dan Marino, George Martin, Steve Jordan and the National Football League Players Association on behalf of themselves and all class members, Plaintiffs, v. NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE; The Five Smiths, Inc., d/b/a Atlanta Falcons; Buffalo Bills, Inc., d/b/a Buffalo Bills; Chicago Bears Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Chicago Bears; Cincinnati Bengals, Inc., d/b/a Cincinnati Bengals; Cleveland Browns, Inc., d/b/a Cleveland Browns; The Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Ltd., d/b/a Dallas Cowboys; PDB Sports, Ltd., d/b/a Denver Broncos; The Detroit Lions, Inc., d/b/a Detroit Lions; The Green Bay Packers, Inc., d/b/a Green Bay Packers; Houston Oilers, Inc., d/b/a Houston Oilers; Indianapolis Colts, Inc., d/b/a Indianapolis Colts; Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Kansas City Chiefs; The Los Angeles Raiders, Ltd., d/b/a Los Angeles Raiders; Los Angeles Rams Football Company, Inc., d/b/a Los Angeles Rams; Miami Dolphins, Ltd., d/b/a Miami Dolphins; Minnesota Vikings Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Minnesota Vikings; New England Patriots Football Club, Inc., d/b/a New England Patriots; The New Orleans Saints Limited Partnership, d/b/a New Orleans Saints; New York Football Giants, Inc., d/b/a New York Giants; New York Jets Football Club, Inc., d/b/a New York Jets; The Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Philadelphia Eagles; B & B Holdings, Inc., d/b/a Phoenix Cardinals; Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc., d/b/a Pittsburgh Steelers; The St. Louis Football Cardinals, Inc., d/b/a St. Louis Cardinals; The Chargers Football Company, d/b/a San Diego Chargers; The San Francisco Forty-Niners, Ltd., d/b/a San Francisco 49ers; The Seattle Professional Football Club, Ltd., d/b/a Seattle Seahawks; Tampa Bay Area NFL Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Pro-Football, Inc., d/b/a Washington Redskins; Defendants. Freeman McNEIL, Mark Collins, Lee Rouson, Niko Noga, Don Majkowski, Dave Richards, Irvin Eatman and Tim McDonald, Plaintiffs, v. NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, The Five Smiths, Inc., d/b/a Atlanta Falcons; Buffalo Bills, Inc., d/b/a Buffalo Bills; Chicago Bears Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Chicago Bears; Cincinnati Bengals, Inc., d/b/a Cincinnati Bengals; Cleveland Browns, Inc., d/b/a Cleveland Browns; The Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Ltd., d/b/a Dallas Cowboys; PDB Sports, Ltd., d/b/a Denver Broncos; The Detroit Lions, Inc., d/b/a Detroit Lions; The Green Bay Packers, Inc., d/b/a Green Bay Packers; Houston Oilers, Inc., d/b/a Houston Oilers; Indianapolis Colts, Inc., d/b/a Indianapolis Colts; Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Kansas City Chiefs; The Los Angeles Raiders, Ltd., d/b/a Los Angeles Raiders; Los Angeles Rams Football Company, Inc., d/b/a Los Angeles Rams; Miami Dolphins, Ltd., d/b/a Miami Dolphins; Minnesota Vikings Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Minnesota Vikings; KMS Patriots Limited Partnership, d/b/a New England Patriots; The New Orleans Saints Limited Partnership, d/b/a New Orleans Saints; New York Football Giants, Inc., d/b/a New York Giants; New York Jets Football Club, Inc., d/b/a New York Jets; The Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Philadelphia Eagles; B & B Holdings, Inc., d/b/a Phoenix Cardinals; Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc., d/b/a Pittsburgh Steelers; The St. Louis Football Cardinals, Inc., d/b/a St. Louis Cardinals; The Chargers Football Company, d/b/a San Diego Chargers; The San Francisco Forty-Niners, Ltd., d/b/a San Francisco 49ers; The Seattle Professional Football Club, Ltd., d/b/a Seattle Seahawks; Tampa Bay Area NFL Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Pro-Football, Inc., d/b/a Washington Redskins; Defendants.
Decision Date23 May 1991
Docket NumberCiv. No. 4-87-917,4-90-476.

764 F. Supp. 1351

Marvin POWELL, Brian Holloway, Michael Kenn, Michael Davis, James Lofton, Michael Luckhurst, Dan Marino, George Martin, Steve Jordan and the National Football League Players Association on behalf of themselves and all class members, Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE;
The Five Smiths, Inc., d/b/a Atlanta Falcons;
Buffalo Bills, Inc., d/b/a Buffalo Bills;
Chicago Bears Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Chicago Bears;
Cincinnati Bengals, Inc., d/b/a Cincinnati Bengals;
Cleveland Browns, Inc., d/b/a Cleveland Browns;
The Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Ltd., d/b/a Dallas Cowboys;
PDB Sports, Ltd., d/b/a Denver Broncos;
The Detroit Lions, Inc., d/b/a Detroit Lions;
The Green Bay Packers, Inc., d/b/a Green Bay Packers;
Houston Oilers, Inc., d/b/a Houston Oilers;
Indianapolis Colts, Inc., d/b/a Indianapolis Colts;
Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Kansas City Chiefs;
The Los Angeles Raiders, Ltd., d/b/a Los Angeles Raiders;
Los Angeles Rams Football Company, Inc., d/b/a Los Angeles Rams;
Miami Dolphins, Ltd., d/b/a Miami Dolphins;
Minnesota Vikings Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Minnesota Vikings;
New England Patriots Football Club, Inc., d/b/a New England Patriots;
The New Orleans Saints Limited Partnership, d/b/a New Orleans Saints;
New York Football Giants, Inc., d/b/a New York Giants;
New York Jets Football Club, Inc., d/b/a New York Jets;
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Philadelphia Eagles;
B & B Holdings, Inc., d/b/a Phoenix Cardinals;
Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc., d/b/a Pittsburgh Steelers;
The St. Louis Football Cardinals, Inc., d/b/a St. Louis Cardinals;
The Chargers Football Company, d/b/a San Diego Chargers;
The San Francisco Forty-Niners, Ltd., d/b/a San Francisco 49ers;
The Seattle Professional Football Club, Ltd., d/b/a Seattle Seahawks;
Tampa Bay Area NFL Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Tampa Bay Buccaneers;
Pro-Football, Inc., d/b/a Washington Redskins; Defendants.

Freeman McNEIL, Mark Collins, Lee Rouson, Niko Noga, Don Majkowski, Dave Richards, Irvin Eatman and Tim McDonald, Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE,
The Five Smiths, Inc., d/b/a Atlanta Falcons;
Buffalo Bills, Inc., d/b/a Buffalo Bills;
Chicago Bears Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Chicago Bears;
Cincinnati Bengals, Inc., d/b/a Cincinnati Bengals;
Cleveland Browns, Inc., d/b/a Cleveland Browns;
The Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Ltd., d/b/a Dallas Cowboys;
PDB Sports, Ltd., d/b/a Denver Broncos;
The Detroit Lions, Inc., d/b/a Detroit Lions;
The Green Bay Packers, Inc., d/b/a Green Bay Packers;
Houston Oilers, Inc., d/b/a Houston Oilers;
Indianapolis Colts, Inc., d/b/a Indianapolis Colts;
Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Kansas City Chiefs;
The Los Angeles Raiders, Ltd., d/b/a Los Angeles Raiders;
Los Angeles Rams Football Company, Inc., d/b/a Los Angeles Rams;
Miami Dolphins, Ltd., d/b/a Miami Dolphins;
Minnesota Vikings Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Minnesota Vikings;
KMS Patriots Limited Partnership, d/b/a New England Patriots;
The New Orleans Saints Limited Partnership, d/b/a New Orleans Saints;
New York Football Giants, Inc., d/b/a New York Giants;
New York Jets Football Club, Inc., d/b/a New York Jets;
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Philadelphia Eagles;
B & B Holdings, Inc., d/b/a Phoenix Cardinals;
Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc., d/b/a Pittsburgh Steelers;
The St. Louis Football Cardinals, Inc., d/b/a St. Louis Cardinals;
The Chargers Football Company, d/b/a San Diego Chargers;
The San Francisco Forty-Niners, Ltd., d/b/a San Francisco 49ers;
The Seattle Professional Football Club, Ltd., d/b/a Seattle Seahawks;
Tampa Bay Area NFL Football Club, Inc., d/b/a Tampa Bay Buccaneers;
Pro-Football, Inc., d/b/a Washington Redskins; Defendants.

Civ. Nos. 4-87-917, 4-90-476.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota, Fourth Division.

May 23, 1991.


764 F. Supp. 1353

Edward M. Glennon, Carol T. Rieger, Luke H. Terhaar, Charles J. Lloyd, Mark Robert Johnson and Lindquist & Vennum, Minneapolis, Minn., Jeffrey L. Kessler, Craig M.J. Allely, Daniel Rubin, Bruce S. Meyer, James W. Quinn and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, New York City, for plaintiffs.

James Fitzmaurice, Patrick J. Schiltz and Faegre & Benson, Minneapolis, Minn., John H. Schafer, Herbert Dym, Jeffrey Pash, Neil Roman, Richard W. Buchanan and Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C., for defendants.

ORDER

DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on the following motions:

1. Defendants' motion to consolidate Powell v. National Football League and McNeil v. National Football League pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a);

2. Defendants' motion in McNeil for a protective order;

3. Defendants' appeal in McNeil of an order of Magistrate Judge Boline dated October 3, 1990; and

4. Plaintiffs' motion in McNeil for partial summary judgment.

Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, the court:

1. Denies defendants' motion to consolidate the Powell and McNeil cases;

2. Denies defendants' motion in McNeil for a protective order;

3. Affirms Magistrate Judge Boline's order in McNeil dated October 3, 1990; and

4. Grants plaintiffs' motion in McNeil for partial summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

The McNeil plaintiffs are eight individual football players whose contracts with their NFL employers expired on February 1, 1990. Plaintiffs allege that the NFL defendants

764 F. Supp. 1354
violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act as a result of illegal restraints under Plan B during the 1990-91 NFL season. Plaintiffs contend that they have standing to bring antitrust claims in light of the Eighth Circuit's decision in Powell v. National Football League, 888 F.2d 559 (8th Cir.1989). They argue that the Powell decision left players with the choice of either accepting indefinitely the NFL defendants' allegedly illegal restraints of trade or abandoning entirely union representation in order to pursue their antitrust rights. Id. at 570 (Heaney, J., dissenting). Plaintiffs claim that the NFL players have chosen to end their union representation in order to clear the way for antitrust claims by individual players

The facts regarding the actions of the players and the players' union are largely undisputed. On November 3, 1989, the Executive Committee ("Committee") of the National Football Players Association ("NFLPA") met to discuss various strategies in the wake of the Eighth Circuit's decision in Powell. The Committee decided to abandon all collective bargaining rights in an effort to end the labor exemption defense to the NFL defendants' system of player restraints. On November 6, 1989, the Committee notified the NFL Management Council of its decision to abandon collective bargaining rights. Over the following weeks, players of the NFL teams met to discuss the Powell decision. The substantial majority of players agreed with the NFLPA's decision to end union representation in order to allow players' antitrust lawsuits to go forward.1 On December 5, 1989, player representatives from the twenty-four NFL teams met and unanimously voted to end the NFLPA's status as the players' collective bargaining representative and to restructure the organization as a voluntary professional association. They enacted new by-laws which supersede the existing constitution and prohibit the NFLPA or its members from engaging in collective bargaining with the NFL, its member clubs or agents.

As a result, the NFLPA contends that it is no longer a labor union but a voluntary professional association which acts to further the interests of active and former NFL players using methods other than collective bargaining. As such, the NFLPA has filed a labor organization termination notice with the United States Department of Labor. The Internal Revenue Service has also reclassified the NFLPA's tax-exempt status from that of a labor organization to that of a business league. Since November 6, 1989, the NFLPA has engaged in no collective bargaining on behalf of any of the NFL players. It also informed NFL management that it would no longer represent the players in grievance proceedings and that players must pursue any claims against the NFL or its members on an individual basis through their own legal counsel.

Based on the NFLPA's actions, plaintiffs argue that the nonstatutory labor exemption defense no longer bars their antitrust challenges and seek partial summary judgment on this issue. Plaintiffs maintain that the exemption expired no later than December of 1989 and thus the court may consider the merits of the McNeil plaintiffs' antitrust claims because they involve player restraints imposed by the NFL defendants after February 1, 1990. Plaintiffs further contend that they have paid a price for giving up their labor rights because the NFL defendants have capitalized on the players' nonunion status by unilaterally cutting insurance benefits and lengthening the playing season to seventeen weeks.

The NFL defendants contend, however, that partial summary judgment is inappropriate because genuine issues of material fact exist regarding the effectiveness of the NFLPA's attempt to disclaim its status as a labor union. The NFL defendants maintain that the NFLPA's disclaimer may be a sham because the NFLPA still functions as a labor union and the disclaimer is merely a tactical maneuver to pressure the NFL defendants into negotiations. The

764 F. Supp. 1355
NFL defendants further claim that material fact disputes exist regarding the NFLPA's motive, credibility and good faith and that the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") must decertify the NFLPA before it ceases to be a labor organization. Finally, the NFL defendants argue that even if the NFLPA's disclaimer were effective, the nonstatutory labor exemption as defined by the Eighth Circuit in Powell continues

DISCUSSION

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers...

To continue reading

Request your trial
23 practice notes
  • Brown v. Pro Football, Inc., Nos. 93-7165
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 12, 1995
    ...their consent, the players in Powell promptly responded by terminating union representation. See Powell v. National Football League, 764 F.Supp. 1351 (D.Minn.1991) (recognizing termination of nonstatutory labor exemption when NFL players voted to end union representation in response to Powe......
  • Brady v. Nat'l Football League, No. 11–1898.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • May 16, 2011
    ...F.3d 799] the players can avoid the labor injunction if they disclaim the union as their collective bargaining agent); Powell v. NFL, 764 F.Supp. 1351, 1356–57 (D.Minn.1991) (holding that the ongoing collective bargaining relationship ends, and the nonstatutory labor exemption no longer app......
  • Brady v. Nat'l Football League, No. 11–1898.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • July 8, 2011
    ...collective bargaining rights in an effort to end the NFL's nonstatutory labor exemption from the antitrust laws. Powell v. NFL, 764 F.Supp. 1351, 1354 (D.Minn.1991). The NFLPA disclaimed its union status, enacted new bylaws prohibiting it from engaging in collective bargaining with the Leag......
  • Brady v. Nat'l Football League, Civil No. 11–639 (SRN/JJG).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • April 25, 2011
    ...collective bargaining relationship” continued to exist because the union elected to dissolve itself. McNeil v. Nat'l Football League, 764 F.Supp. 1351, 1358 (D.Minn.1991).5 The court explained that the Union's executive committee decided, in light of the Eighth Circuit's ruling—and in parti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • Brown v. Pro Football, Inc., Nos. 93-7165
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 12, 1995
    ...their consent, the players in Powell promptly responded by terminating union representation. See Powell v. National Football League, 764 F.Supp. 1351 (D.Minn.1991) (recognizing termination of nonstatutory labor exemption when NFL players voted to end union representation in response to Powe......
  • Brady v. Nat'l Football League, No. 11–1898.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • May 16, 2011
    ...F.3d 799] the players can avoid the labor injunction if they disclaim the union as their collective bargaining agent); Powell v. NFL, 764 F.Supp. 1351, 1356–57 (D.Minn.1991) (holding that the ongoing collective bargaining relationship ends, and the nonstatutory labor exemption no longer app......
  • Brady v. Nat'l Football League, No. 11–1898.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • July 8, 2011
    ...collective bargaining rights in an effort to end the NFL's nonstatutory labor exemption from the antitrust laws. Powell v. NFL, 764 F.Supp. 1351, 1354 (D.Minn.1991). The NFLPA disclaimed its union status, enacted new bylaws prohibiting it from engaging in collective bargaining with the Leag......
  • Brady v. Nat'l Football League, Civil No. 11–639 (SRN/JJG).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • April 25, 2011
    ...collective bargaining relationship” continued to exist because the union elected to dissolve itself. McNeil v. Nat'l Football League, 764 F.Supp. 1351, 1358 (D.Minn.1991).5 The court explained that the Union's executive committee decided, in light of the Eighth Circuit's ruling—and in parti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT