PGA’s Suspension Of Players Who Played With Other Teams Could Lead To Anti-Trust Lawsuit

( The PGA Tour is in a heated standoff with new startup golf outfit LIV Golf, which is backed by the government of Saudi Arabia.

Over the last few weeks, some golfers have defected from the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf, prompting the PGA Tour to ban those who chose to do so.

The whole ordeal escalated to a new level in early May, when the PGA Tour wouldn’t grant waivers to players who were hoping to compete in the inaugural LIV Golf event that was held in London.

Greg Norman, who serves as the CEO of the new league, immediately lambasted the PGA Tour’s move, calling them “an illegal monopoly” that’s “anti-golfer, anti-fan and anti-competitive.”

The PGA Tour took it a step further when it threatened that any golfers who participated in an LIV Golf event would be banned from playing on the PGA Tour, and would have their membership cards revoked. When some players announced they would be playing anyway, the PGA Tour followed through on their promise.

Since then, other top golfers have announced they’d be leaving the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf.

Now, it’s very possible that the whole situation will find itself in the court system, with possible anti-trust allegations being brought against the PGA Tour.

There are many different entities who could bring an anti-trust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. That could come from an individual golfer or group of golfers. It could come from LIV Golf itself. Or, it could come from a state government or the Federal Trade Commission.

The PGA Tour has been scrutinized by the FTC in the past, too. In the early 1990s, the FTC conducted an investigation that took four years, after which they determined that two policies the PGA Tour had violated federal anti-trust laws.

At the time, lawyers for the FTC recommended to the federal government that the PGA Tour be nullified. They never followed through on that to take decisive action, but that doesn’t mean they won’t this time around.

Craig Seebald, who serves as a partner as well as an anti-trust specialist at the international law firm Vinson & Elkins, said the FTC is now more aggressive than they have been in the past in matters of anti-trust.

He said:

“I’m not sure how excited they get about a battle between golf leagues. They’re worried more about gas prices and such. But, they could say, ‘Hey, we looked at this 30 years ago. Maybe we should look at it again.'”

One of the biggest hurdles to a successful claim of anti-trust is proving that someone or some entity suffered harm as a result of the organization. And, as Seebald says:

“I think that’s why we haven’t seen any suits so far. Because there hasn’t been harm yet.”

Of course, that could change in the near future, particularly because players will certainly lose out on money and exposure now that the PGA Tour has banned them for participating in LIV Golf events.