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Op-Ed: The Ted Stevens Act Gives Amateur Competitions Freedom

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Op-Ed: The Ted Stevens Act Gives Amateur Competitions Freedom

Colleen McCloskey photo.

This is a summary opinion column outlining a longer op-ed submitted by Rafael Zahralddin. The link to the more detailed article is below. 

This article will discuss how amateur sports are governed in the United States. The Ted Stevens Act created the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and national governing bodies of individual sports like USA Gymnastics, USA Basketball, and USA Rugby, to address the lack of competitiveness in U.S. Olympic teams. 

See Full Op-Ed on: Ted Stevens Act and Restricted Amateur Athletic Competitions Here (PDF) >>

This article will hopefully provide a good resource for those responsible for exempt organizations on amateur sports governance in the United States and how the various organizations involved in stewarding the sport interact and their respective responsibilities and jurisdictions.

The Ted Stevens Act also gives exclusive jurisdiction to independent amateur athletic organizations over competitions for a discreet group of amateur athletes like collegiate, armed services, and high school athletes under sections 220526 and 220523(a)(5) of the Act, exempting them from jurisdiction of the USOPC and its NGBs. These competitions are known as “Restricted Amateur Athletic Competitions,” taken from the title of section 220526 of the Ted Stevens Act.

The article will also discuss the responsibilities of the USOPC and its NGBs—which international and national competitions they run, promotion of the sport, and how they are supposed to cooperate with Restricted Amateur Athletic Competitions that run their own national competitions. The article will explain how Courts interpreting the Act do so very narrowly. 

Antitrust laws prevent collusion and restraint of commerce.  The rules of international athletic federations like FIFA and World Rugby cannot expand U.S. antitrust exemptions or the limited jurisdiction over the sport granted by Ted Stevens either directly or indirectly for an NGB.

The article will also detail how Ted Stevens grants independence to Restricted Amateur Athletic Competitions to run national competitions, including setting eligibility, protecting athletes from abuse, and, for example, regulating when competitions will resume under the current pandemic. Without the jurisdiction given to the USOPC, NGBs, and Restricted Amateur Athletic Competitions, all would be guilty of antitrust violations. The Ted Stevens Act gives a narrowly tailored antitrust exemption to the USOPC, NGBs, and Restricted Amateur Athletic Competitions. Restricted Amateur Athletic Competitions can choose who they play against, when, where, and how, just as long as they aren’t intruding on international amateur competitions, which are very limited in scope, especially after the decision in ChampionsWorld which limited FIFA and U.S. Soccer’s antitrust exemption and jurisdiction.     

Significantly, the article examines how organizations like the NCAA, state high school athletic organizations, or single and multi-sport collegiate organizations, including college club sports organizations, all operate independently of the USOPC and NGBs, though there are obvious areas and opportunities for cooperation to promote amateur sport between exempt organizations and the USOPC and its NGBs. While Restricted Amateur Athletic Competitions have as a primary mission their own competitions, which include significant and paramount educational objectives, they share a love and dedication for each of the sports and its athletes that the USOPC and its NGBs were created to foster.

See Full Op-Ed on Ted Stevens Act and Restricted Amateur Athletic Competitions Here (PDF) >>

— Rafael X. Zahralddin, Esq. is a Director and Shareholder in Elliott Greenleaf, P.C. He is also on the Board of Directors for National Collegiate Rugby (NCR). Thanks also to Sarah Denis, Associate, and Courtney Snyder, Business Development Director( Delaware) at Elliott Greenleaf.


This is an op-ed opinion column and the opinions herein do not necessarily represent the opinions of the GRR editorial staff.