NEW ORLEANS – A federal appeals court has turned down an appeal by a baseball bat manufacturer that claimed its business was negatively affected after two national high school sports associations disallowed use of its product.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss an antitrust suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana by Marucci Sports LLC against the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Association.
Marucci Sports of Baton Rouge argued that the NCAA and NFHS were violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by engaging in a conspiracy which restrained trade. Both the NCAA and NFHS implemented a standard to regulate non-wood baseball bats used in high school and college games. The standard they adopted in 2011 is called the Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution, or BBCOR standard, which measures how fast a baseball leaves a bat on contact, referred to as how “hot” the bat performs. This standard is in place to ensure player safety and fairness by reducing technology assisted home runs. Marucci, a newer bat manufacturer, alleged that the BBCOR standard was implemented to continue the flow of sponsorship money from larger bat manufacturers such as Rawlings, Aston, DeMarini and Louisville Slugger to the NCAA. Marucci’s allegations stemmed from the fact that its bats, which had previously been certified as BBCOR compliant, failed routine testing. Despite appeals to the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee, the decision to decertify Marucci’s bats was upheld at district court.
In order to violate the Sherman Act, a conspiracy requires parties to both act in concert and to have the intention to manipulate the market.
The appeals court held that while it is evident that the NCAA and NFHS did work together to implement BBCOR standards, Marucci offered no facts supporting its claim that organizations intended to manipulate the market. Furthermore, the decertification of one of Marucci’s bats did not eliminate the company from the market, as it still sells seven models that are BBCOR certified. The appeals court found no basis in a Sherman Amendment violation and therefore affirmed the district court's dismissal of Marucci’s second amended complaint and denial of Marucci’s motion to amend.
The appeal was heard by Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart and Circuit Judges Emilio M. Garza and Leslie H. Southwick.
Case No. 13-30568.