It was a call Wednesday that didn't go in favor of the National Football League , but could what happened to the NFL be a precursor of what might await Major League Baseball?
The latter can't take much comfort in how the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in American Needle Inc. v. National Football League .
In the case, NFL officials from commissioner Roger Goodell on down had banked on the Supreme Court, a court with a decidedly pro-business slant, to allow them to skirt antitrust laws, but the high court shoved aside that notion as easily as Albert Haynesworth does a 210-pound running back.
The justices didn't just reject that argument. Their decision was unanimous , a ruling that blocked any thought the NFL might have entertained of moving a giant step closer to the kind of antitrust protections Major League Baseball has enjoyed since 1922.
"The NFL teams do not possess either the unitary decision-making quality or the single aggregation of economic power characteristic of independent action," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the high court. "Each of the teams is a substantial, independently owned, and independently managed business."
Now, what this decision will mean for the NFL is uncertain. The particulars of the case that brought the league before the "court of last resort" have been sent back to a U.S. District Count to be argued afresh.
A victory in the lower court might allow the NFL to think wistfully about having the privileges the high court bestowed on baseball. Such a victory, however, doesn't seem likely.
Which brings baseball back into the discussion.
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