The intersection of law and professional athletics is often an interesting topic (e.g., why doesn’t Major League Baseball violate the Sherman Act?). Employment law is no exception. In recent days, former Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre has come under intense media scrutiny after he had a telephone conversation with the Detroit Lions’ General Manager, Matt Millen. Favre spoke with Millen before a game between the Lions and Packers, and allegedly offered inside information to the Lions on the Packers’ play calling and strategy. Under federal and state laws, it is unlawful to transfer “trade secrets” which are defined (under federal law) as “patterns, plans . . . prototypes . . . techniques, processes [and] procedures” which derive independent economic value from not generally being known to the public. Trade secret violations are more frequently litigated in, for example, the computer industry than in athletics. Nevertheless, a sports team’s playbook is as much a trade secret as a software program. Thus, if Favre did indeed provide detailed information that he obtained with the Packers, it is conceivable that his infamous telephone call was also illegal.
But don’t expect a lawsuit anytime soon. An article discussing Favre’s actions appears here: