The National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) are, essentially, professional sports monopolies. How have they avoided anti-trust action by the federal government? (Or have they?)

  • They're not monopolies, as anybody could start a competitor league in any of those sports. They don't survive because nobody is interested in the new product when the one they know is already very good (at least, from their perspective).
    – user4657
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 3:43
  • @Nij XFL, USFL, ABA, and Arena Football, just off the top of my head. USFL is in the news as an early Donald Trump business venture. XFL stands out for "he hate me" talkoffamenetwork.com/…
    – user662852
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 10:49

1 Answer 1


Well baseball for historical and frankly crazy decisions of SCOTUS is exempt because it is not a business that crosses state lines (by definition of the court if by no one else's).

The other sports have had their run-ins with antitrust laws; some they've won and some they've lost.

All of these have been to do with antitrust provisions in restraint of trade between leagues and clubs and clubs and players.

As for monopoly powers:

The elements of monopolization are twofold:

  • possession of monopoly power in a relevant market; and

  • willfully acquiring or maintaining that power.

There are two clear defences to allegations of running a monopoly:

  • the definition of the market - if the market is defined as "baseball" then there is a clear monopoly, however, if the market is "professional sports" it is not so clear that there is a monopoly. Certainly, both definitions of market are arguable.

  • that the monopoly was "the result of superior skill, foresight, and industry". These types of monopoly are allowed as the acquisition of monopoly power was not willfull.

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