This afternoon ESPN.com reported that the National Basketball Players Association has called for an end to the league's age requirement. This is an interesting development on a few fronts:
First, as we know from the case Clarett v. Nat'l Football League, some courts have found that sports leagues' age requirements are immune to antitrust challenge as long as they are collectively bargained with the union. Thus, if the NBPA no longer consents to an age requirement, it will become easier for a prospective NBA player to challenge the age requirement under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. (For more on this point, see Michael McCann's article on the legality of age restrictions in the NBA and NFL, and my article on the same general point under both U.S. and EU law).
Second, as I have suggested in a forthcoming law review article, sports unions that agree to an age requirement may face some risk of a lawsuit under labor law's duty of fair representation. By seeking to remove this age requirement, the NBPA reduces their risk.
Finally, the NBPA's change of position on an age requirement signals it may play hardball in the upcoming round of labor negotiations with the league.