In 2000, the NFL entered into an exclusive license agreement with Reebok International. Before that agreement was signed, American Needle, Inc., had individual licensing deals with several NFL teams. By the stoke of a pen, the NFL killed American Needle’s business. American Needle sued claiming that NFL’s exclusive deal with Reebok violated federal antitrust laws.
The 7th Circuit, based in Chicago, ruled in the NFL’s favor last year, prompting American Needle to appeal to the Supreme Court. Seeing a chance for a victory that could make a statement, as opposed to, say, a lucky win by a field goal, the NFL joined that request, hoping that it could get a wide-ranging ruling that could become the law of the land and exempt it from an array of potential antitrust litigation. The NHL and the NBA voiced their own support for a ruling. (Major League Baseball has an exemption from antitrust law).