Phil Mickelson, Bryson Dechambeau, and nine other golfers competing in the Saudi Arabian-funded LIV Tour are suing the Professional Golfers Association (PGA). LIV claims the PGA is acting as a monopoly in the professional golf market. The LIV tour, LIV is the Roman numeral for the Arabic number 54, started play this year, and they are going head-to-head with the PGA to be the number one professional golfing league. As reported by CNN, Greg “The Shark” Norman is a leader for LIV, and he recruited Mickelson, Dechambeau, Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, Matt Jones, and others to join LIV after these golfers competed in the PGA. As reported by CBS Sports and other networks, Norman and LIV even tried to recruit current NBA on TNT analyst Charles Barkley, but they were unsuccessful.
LIV is seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow its golfers to compete in the PGA’s FedEx Cup Playoffs. However, PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan banned LIV golfers from joining or rejoining the PGA Tour. LIV responded by claiming that PGA is a monopoly under antitrust law.
A monopoly is defined under the Sherman Act §2, 15 U.S.C. §2 states “[e]very person who monopolizes, attempts to monopolize, combines, or conspires with person(s) to monopolize trade or commerce with the United States, or foreign nations, commit a felony].” There are two elements for an entity to be classified as a monopoly. First, they must possess monopoly power in their relevant market, and the power’s willful acquisition or maintenance must be distinguished from growth or development as a superior product. Simply, there must be monopoly power, and the individual or entity must show they have anticompetitive or exclusionary conduct over those trying to enter the same market.
In the golfing market, the PGA has not had serious competitors entering the male golfing market until LIV entered the market this year. The PGA has shown they have monopoly power because no other male professional golfing league could compete with the PGA. This year, they have shown anticompetitive or exclusionary conduct by banning LIV golfers from the PGA Tour or sharing in the revenues the PGA made from the tournaments they held, such as the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and so forth. The PGA banned LIV golfers from competing in next week’s FedEx Cup playoffs, and the LIV golfers argue this action by the PGA is exclusionary.
This action by the PGA excludes LIV golfers because the PGA does not want other golfers from another professional league taking up spots when golfers from the PGA, in their mind, rightfully deserve those spots. The PGA has a negative view of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia funds LIV. If the PGA Tour wants to avoid this lawsuit, in my opinion, they should allow these eleven golfers to compete in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Mickelson and DeChambeau are two recognizable names and extraordinary golfers the two past generations recognize. Should they compete, the PGA would gain a larger profit and fan support. The PGA is, essentially, holding a monopoly over the male golfing world, and LIV, by suing and asking for a temporary restraining order, is trying to show to the sports world that the main pro leagues are monopolies in their respective sports.
Take the NFL for example, the United States Football League recently concluded its season, and the Xtreme Football League will kick off in the next few years. Ever since the AFL and NFL merged back in 1970, no other football league has been able to compete with the NFL. The XFL’s second stint was the best and most efficient to do so until the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down back in February/March of 2019.
Should LIV prevail in this lawsuit, and are granted their request for a temporary restraining order, they are setting a precedent for other leagues to challenge the “Big Four,” the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA.
Alex Patterson is a 3L at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. He played football for seventeen years as an offensive and defensive lineman. He graduated from Lindenwood University-Belleville in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Sports Management. He can be followed on Twitter @alpatt71.