It's probably clear to regular readers by now that I like sports. I work sports issues into this blog whenever I can find a conceivable connection to IEL. I recently came across two more such issues, both related to international aspects of antitrust, although it has taken me some time to put together a post on them.
First, over at Opinio Juris a while back, Kevin Heller talked about a high school basketball player who decided to play professionally in Europe rather than play U.S. college basketball. He can't go to the NBA this year because of a rule that players must be 19 and a year removed from high school graduation in order to be drafted.
Heller's post referred to the constitutionality of the rule, but I'm going to focus on antitrust issues. I just finished teaching a class on antitrust in which I talked about a similar NFL rule that was challenged by a college football player. I'm not sure I like these rules as a matter of business strategy, but in terms of antitrust concerns, I think they should generally be allowed. As I've said before, I subscribe to the single entity theory of sports leagues -- the leagues should be treated as single entities, and therefore any agreement among the teams cannot be challenged as a restraint of trade under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. While there may still be a monopoly problem, the fact that European leagues are competing with the NBA for players indicates that the market for professional basketball players is becoming a global one, with the NBA's dominance being eroded.
On the other hand, this does concern me: "On July 15, the NHL and the KHL [Russia's hockey league] announced that the two leagues had come to an interim agreement to respect one another's contracts." Now, what this agreement actually says was more complicated than I could quickly gather. But regardless, I do think there are antitrust concerns when two competing leagues reach agreements like this one.