The PGA Tour Faces DOJ Antitrust Investigation, Calls It ‘A Stupidity Test’. As the Department of Justice reportedly undertakes an investigation into the actions of the PGA Tour, its CEO Greg Norman believes that their own actions led them to be at the center of this controversy.
Rather than forcing us to take a call, Norman says it’s easy to do. Norman says everyone should keep in mind how much time they are wasting on issues that can be easily solved with technology.
Norman went on to say that the PGA Tour “brought it on themselves,” making it so golf tournament organizers can pay independent contractors while still being part of the tour. The LIV Golf Network has only offered an opportunity for people currently in the industry to earn a living doing something else while still supporting on an official level.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that agents for players had been contacted by the antitrust division of the Department of Justice regarding the PGA Tour’s policies for player participation in non-PGA events.
As a result of their participation in LIV Golf, the PGA Tour has suspended several members. The suspensions have not been announced but some players have resigned due to the new decision from the Tour.
With its latest investigation, the U.S. government has already looked into the PGA’s rules back in 1994. The first investigation came about for the Federal Trade Commission – with their focus on “PGA rules that prevented golfers from participating in non-PGA events without permission from the commissioner.” The second is focused on PGA rules that “tied to the appearances of golfers on televised golf programs” and appears again today with an article from the Wall Street Journal entitled: “PGA Investigated by FTC”.
Though it was not unexpected, the PGA Tour told the Wall Street Journal that they are confident in a similar outcome. The FTC investigated them in 1994 and they ended their investigation in 1995.
LIV Golf recently issued a letter to PGA Tour players and agents, saying that if the PGA Tour banned its players from joining LIV, it would likely cause the federal government to punish PGA illegal practices.
There is absolutely no reason for the PGA to ban independent contractors of professional golfers. A letter from the USPTO states that this decision harms both companies, consumers and provides no justification for their actions.
Although professional golfers are “independent contractors,” which gives them the ability to choose where they might play, there is a PGA regulation that limits how much and where Tour players can participate in non-PGA events. Professionals must request releases to play in non-PGA events, and if the requests are denied. If they are somewhere else except North America, then they are allowed to receive three. The requests can be denied, which brings up the question of whether all professional golfers need releases or not.
Darren Heitner, a sports lawyer and University of Florida teacher, says that the Tour has not violated any legal codes in how it has handled individuals applying to play in LIV Golf
Alan Heitner does not believe the tour is violating antitrust laws because other options are available. The PGA Tour cannot exclude an individual from its ranks as long as it follows its own policies, provides no preferential treatment, and does not act in a discriminatory manner.