- 11 LIV golfers file lawsuit against PGA Tour.
- Legal analysts say LIV’s side must prove that the PGA Tour controlled a market and engaged in anticompetitive practices to maintain control of that market.
- One expert said the case could come down to determining whether the PGA Tour engaged in “predatory behavior.”
Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine other members of LIV Golf have filed a lawsuit against the PGA Tour.
The lawsuit comes after the PGA Tour suspended players who left to join LIV Golf and begins a legal battle that could last years.
In the lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California on Wednesday, the LIV golfers allege the PGA Tour engaged in anti-competitive practices while trying to block LIV’s progress.
“The tour has set out to destroy competition in its infancy by doing everything in its power to lock out its members (including the Plaintiffs) and deny them the opportunity for real sustained competition for their services,” it says. treatment.
Legal analysts explained to Insider that the case would come down to two factors: whether the PGA Tour has control of a relevant market and whether they used anti-competitive practices to maintain control of that market.
“When you have a rulemaking body like the PGA sanctioning people who go to a different competitive team, that should always raise antitrust concerns,” said Martin Edel, chair of Goulston & Storrs’ College Sports Law Practice . Knowledgeable. “Whether the antitrust merger will pass is another question entirely.”
“Is professional golf a relevant product market? I think there’s some question about that,” Edel said, noting that the PGA could argue that it has competition not just in the golf world, but in the entire sports world. and entertainment.
If LIV Golfers is able to prove that the PGA Tour had control of a product market, antitrust questions become relevant, so the Tour may have a harder time making its case.
In the lawsuit, LIV argues that the PGA Tour is willfully giving up an opportunity to provide fans with the best product by restricting LIV players from entering its tournaments in order to harm its new competition.
“Banning plaintiffs and other top golf professionals from its own events diminishes the strength of the Tour’s field and diminishes the quality of the product it offers golf fans by locking them out of seeing many top golfers participate in Tour events,” the lawsuit states. “The only conceivable benefit to the Tour from degrading its own product in this way is to destroy competition. Indeed, the Tour has admitted its purely anti-competitive purpose of attacking and injuring players.”
According to Penn State law professor Stephen Ross, that could be a problem for the PGA Tour.
“Predatory behavior, in terms of antitrust cases, sacrifices short-term profits for long-term monopoly profit,” explained Ross, executive director of Penn State’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. “The Sherman Act says you can’t undercut your product in the short term for long term monopoly profit.
“If the PGA Tour says, we’ll sponsor an event, but we won’t let 10 of the best golfers participate, even though it would get more people to attend and increase interest in the event if the LIV players participate , why would the PGA Tour do that?”
Further complicating matters is the fact that golfers on the PGA Tour are independent contractors and not direct employees.
“To me, the PGA Tour is on darker grounds if you don’t buy the narrative that the PGA is like a championship and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect golfers to work exclusively for them,” Ross said. “[But that’s harder to argue] when the golfers are not actual employees of the PGA Tour.”
While the antitrust aspect of the lawsuit could take years to resolve, three players — Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones — also sought a “temporary restraining order” that would allow them to play in the upcoming FedExCup Playoffs. All three players had previously qualified for the playoff, which offers the largest potential payouts of any event on the PGA Tour calendar, but were removed from contention after being suspended due to their move to join the LIV.
In the suit, the players argue that Gooch, Swafford and Jones could suffer “substantial and irreparable” harm if forced to miss the playoffs, as it could lead to missed opportunities to play in the majors in the future.
“I think it’s a tough road for one of these players to claim that there’s a possibility that they’re going to be irreparably harmed because of that one factor at this point,” Edel said.
In a statementthe PGA Tour expressed confidence in its case.
“We are preparing to protect our members and challenge this latest attempt to disrupt our tour, and you should rest assured of the legal merit of our position,” the statement said. “Essentially, these banned players – who are now employees of the Saudi Golf League – left the Tour and now want to come back. With the Saudi Golf League on hiatus, they are trying to use lawyers to force us members to compete with good condition”.