ALBANY — New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has started an antitrust investigation into the NFL lockout, requesting information from both the league and the players’ association about the economic impact of pro football’s labor impasse.
“While we are hopeful that the NFL and its players will reach an agreement to end the ongoing lockout in the near future, this office will take all appropriate steps to protect New Yorkers, many of whom rely on the significant economic activity generated by the NFL,” Schneiderman said Thursday.
Assistant Attorney General Richard Schwartz wrote this week to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying the lockout will “inflict significant economic injuries statewide,” starting with losses of upstate training camps, and the AG’s office is obliged to investigate whether it is lawful.
“In particular, we are deeply troubled by the possible antitrust implications of the NFL’s conduct under the New York State Donnelly Act, as well as certain contractual violations it may have prompted,” Schwartz wrote.
Besides revenue, employment and contract information, he also requested within 10 days all NFL documents since 2008 concerning: the question of whether to lock out players or suspend play; the actual lockout that began March 12; and, the decertification of the NFL Players Association as the players’ union representative in contract talks.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league is examining the letter with its attorneys and will respond.
The fundamental antitrust issue is whether the 32 football teams acted as an illegal cartel since there’s no place else for the players to go. Under New York law, the attorney general can seek triple any damages, estimated at millions of dollars to players and businesses in New York like hotels, restaurants and merchants.
Player representatives and team owners were meeting in New York on Thursday in hopes of resolving the lockout.
While the New York Jets and New York Giants play their games in New Jersey, their summer training camps are typically held upstate in Cortland and Albany, respectively, drawing thousands of fans. The Buffalo Bills’ summer camp is at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, their games in Orchard Park.
Schwartz noted that the Jets have already canceled their camp at the state college in Cortland. That alone generates an estimated $4.5 million in business activity yearly, according to the attorney general’s office.
From the NFL Players Association, Schwartz requested the names of all team members living in New York. Players filed a federal antitrust suit against the league in Minneapolis soon after the lockout began.