The Supreme Court decided not to grant broad antitrust protection to the NFL, and held that it consists of 32 individual teams that must be considered separate. The suit was an appeal of a lower court decision, where a NFL hat maker sued the NFL after it contracted with Reebok to exclusively sell NFL apparel. The lower court ruled in the NFL’s favor, but the Supreme Court reversed.
Justice Stevens said "Although NFL teams have common interests such as promoting the NFL brand, they are still separate, profit-maximizing entities, and their interests in licensing team trademarks are not necessarily aligned . . . ."
Continuing, Stevens explained that all of the separate teams compete for intellectual property, and each team are competing suppliers of different valuable trademarks. Allowing one company to exclusively create all the apparel would deprive the marketplace of competition.