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No Team, No Peace: Franchise Free Agency in the National Football League

Katherine C. Leone
Columbia Law Review
Vol. 97, No. 2 (Mar., 1997), pp. 473-523
DOI: 10.2307/1123368
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1123368
Page Count: 51
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No Team, No Peace: Franchise Free Agency in the National Football League
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Abstract

Recent National Football League (NFL) team relocations have been so numerous that many refer to the trend as "franchise free agency." This phenomenon threatens the stability and fan base of the league while leading cities to finance the construction and renovation of stadiums to attract or keep teams. The league faces antitrust liability when it attempts to block a team move and therefore has been reluctant to try. Although cities have demonstrated a greater willingness to intervene, their efforts have often failed. Unchecked by the league and their home cities, owners move to maximize their stadium revenues. This Note advocates inoculating the NFL from antitrust liability in the context of franchise relocation regulation. While the exemption is an important part of the solution to franchise free agency, it does not sufficiently address the concerns of fans and taxpayers. This Note argues that the NFL should retain team names, colors, and logos for former home cities in case a city fields a team again. To protect the taxpayers, the Note takes a two-tiered approach: On the federal level, the tax-exempt status of all municipal bonds used to build stadiums should be revoked; to protect local taxpayers, the antitrust exemption should include a provision that requires the league to reject a team relocation when a city has financed construction or renovation of a stadium and the debt from the improvements has not been retired.

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