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'Whites-Only' Basketball League Seeking to Avoid Antitrust Issues?

"Just because something may not be illegal does not make it a good idea." It's the kind of aphorism that should be printed in bold letters on the back of the lawyer's handbook, and Miami lawyer and sports agent Jason Wolf brings us the latest reason why this week with the news of  a "Whites-only" basketball league that hopes to begin play this summer.

According to this article in The Augusta Chronicle, the All-American Basketball Alliance will allow only players born in the United States to two Caucasian parents to take the court. The commissioner of the proposed league, Don "Moose" Lewis, denied that racism was the motivating factor behind the restrictions on player nationality and ethnicity, claiming instead that a subset of basketball fans are interested in seeing "fundamental basketball," rather than the "'street-ball' played by 'people of color.'" Nevertheless, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver made clear that his general policy of welcoming minor league athletic teams to the city would not extend to an AABA franchise, saying that the league rules were inconsistent with the "spirit of inclusiveness" he seeks to foster.

While Wolf rightly notes that the AABA's announcement "raises interesting theoretical legal questions about private entities setting up entry barriers," I couldn't help but notice that the league has apparently declared itself a "single entity" which will own all 12 proposed teams. Presumably, Commissioner Moose has already deconstructed the oral argument transcript of last week's Supreme Court battle between the NFL and spurned team apparel manufacturer American Needle, in which that league's single-entity status, and attendant antitrust immunity, was seriously questioned by the justices. No word yet on whether the AABA has decided which lucky company will be licensed to produce "Kentucky Klavern" caps or "Georgia Grand Dragons" jerseys.

NB: Some bloggers have speculated that the announcement might be a hoax -- perhaps a fair assumption considering it was reported by, among other outlets, the Weekly World News. But the experts at NBC Sports have apparently confirmed that this guy is serious. The WNBA is looking better every day.

Legal Blog Watch guest blogger Eric Lipman, a volunteer attorney with the nonprofit organization Citizen Works, was formerly an associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel and a federal district court clerk.

Posted by Eric Lipman on January 22, 2010 at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)


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