New York (26/07 – 25.00) The United States Department of Justice has confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that they are investigating the PGA Tour in an antitrust probe.
Although the investigation is just beginning, an area of focus that appears to be at the center of the investigation is whether or not the PGA is illegally restricting players from playing for the upstart Saudi backed tour.
LIV Golf chairman Greg Norman has accused the PGA Tour an “illegal monopoly”. Although monopoly which are result of superior skill, foresight, and industry is permitted, restricting player movement who are considered by the PGA as “independent contractors, might not be.
The PGA Tour’s denying players an exemption to play in the inaugural LIV event in London, and later suspending outright all players who competed on the LIV tour could be seen as anti-trust under the The Sherman Antitrust Act.
One of the most famous case sports antitrust cases in sports is the American Football League v. National Football League, 205 F. Supp. 60 (D. Md. 1962). The AFL accused the NFL of discrediting American League owners, players and coaches, threatening to blacklist AFL players, expanding television networks, and hindering efforts of the new teams to get playing facilities.
In the end, the NFL won the case over the AFL as the NFL was seen as a natural monopoly but what the NFL never did was declare publicly that players would be punished if they joined the upstart league.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced in June that players who chose to play in LIV Golf would be suspended from the Tour indefinitely. In a statement last month, Monahan said:
“Simultaneous to you receiving this memo, the players (listed below) are being notified that they are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA TOUR tournament play, including the Presidents Cup. This also applies to all tours sanctioned by the PGA TOUR: the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA TOUR Champions, PGA TOUR Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamérica.”
Norman reacted to the news about the DOJ investigation telling the Palm Beach Post that the PGA’s actions “is a testament to their stupidity quite honestly.”