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Now that the PGA TOUR has officially suspended seventeen players for agreeing to play in a LIV golf event, the TOUR could face “a major” antitrust lawsuit, according to some non-compete attorneys.
“The PGA TOUR is really opening up to a major litigation with potential antitrust claims and also a situation where they can’t justify what they’re doing other than to say, ‘We don’t like competition,'” said John Lauro. an attorney based in New York and Florida.
“And the courts are going to be very concerned about why the PGA TOUR is doing this,” Lauro continued. “These issues are now being examined very closely by the courts from an antitrust perspective. The courts are very skeptical of any kind of trade restriction and that would be part of what the PGA TOUR is doing.”
And if you read the PGA TOUR’s memo to members, you certainly sound nervous about the competition LIV Golf is presenting.
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In it, PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan accused LIV participants of “turning their backs on the PGA TOUR.” He then gets a bit petty, scolding them for not submitting the correct paperwork: “As you know, (the LIV) players … did not receive the required conflicting event and media rights releases — or requested any releases at all.” “
He also seems to condemn players for wanting to gamble for money.
“These players made their choice for their own financial reasons,” says Monahan.
Apparently, Monahan thinks the PGA TOUR is a non-profit organization. But it is not. It’s a well-funded business that has never had to compete for golfers or spectators. The Saudis and LIV Golf changed all that.
According to Lauro and fellow attorney Jonathan Pollard, the PGA TOUR will be charged with suspending players and will have a hard time convincing a court that they had to do so to protect important property interests.
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According to Pollard, in order to successfully enforce a non-competition clause, the PGA TOUR would need to demonstrate that a player’s participation in an LIV golf event would “compromise confidential information or trade secrets, vulnerable customer relationships, or an exceptional investment in employee education or training. “
“These are the three largest and most contested legitimate business interests upon which a court might enforce a non-compete obligation,” Pollard said. “And if you look at this situation with the PGA TOUR, none of those interests even come close.”
Not to mention that suspending the players makes little sense from an economic point of view.
“(The PGA TOUR) is going to have to give up their resistance to this,” predicts Pollard, “because no one is going to want to watch the PGA TOUR if these top players aren’t playing. Then that will affect their bottom line, it will hurt their ad revenue, and ultimately the market will force them to come to a table and strike a deal.
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“The PGA TOUR will not stand by and support permanent or extended suspensions for Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia. You will withdraw from these suspensions. It would destroy their brand. It would destroy their business.”
At least according to attorneys John Lauro and Jonathan Pollard, the PGA TOUR memo officially suspending players is a legally dubious gesture designed to uphold the TOUR’s pro-golf monopoly. We’ll see if any of the suspended golfers respond with a lawsuit.