Antitrust Attack on NFL's LA Moves Faces Long Odds

July 21, 2015Article

Greenberg Glusker partner Ricardo Cestero was quoted in a story that ran in Law360 on July 21st about the National Football League’s proposed plan to move the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles.  Fans of the Chargers urged the city of San Diego to file an antitrust suit against the NFL saying that the move was anti-competitive, a notion with which Cestero disagrees.

“In this situation, where a city is trying to prevent the team from leaving, I don’t see much of an antitrust argument,” said Cestero.  “I don’t see there being any anticompetitive effect of an NFL team moving from one city to the next.”

In such so-called rule of reason suits, plaintiffs have the burden of proving anti-competitive activity. If the case were successful in making it to trial, a jury would decide whether the move restricted competition.

Cestero noted that the Chargers situation is different from previous antitrust cases involving NFL teams where the owners typically used a move as leverage to negotiate or renegotiate leases.

“What’s odd to me about the San Diego situation is that it’s sort of a reverse,” Cestero said. “To me it seems to be a square peg in a round hole. It’s essentially arguing that the NFL rules should operate to make it harder to move from one city to the next.”

If San Diego chooses to file an antitrust suit, the city would face a major funding issue. The city has already made it clear that it won’t use public funding to build a new stadium in San Diego and funding a lawsuit would increase the financial burden.