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NFL’s potential loaning of players to AAF could create legal problems

The NFL allowing some players to play in the AAF could be incredibly beneficial to both sides.

The NFL probably needs to tread lightly.

A burgeoning affiliation with the Alliance of American Football seems to be moving toward an arrangement that would allow NFL teams to loan certain players to the AAF. But unless the NFL also is willing to loan those players to the XFL, things could get interesting. And possibly ugly.

Under the standard player contract, NFL players cannot play football in other leagues absent the written consent of their teams. So if the league directs the 32 teams to authorize certain players to play for the AAF but, at the same time, prohibits teams from authorizing any players to play for other leagues -- like the XFL -- that becomes a potential if not likely antitrust violation.

The league consists of 32 independent businesses. If the league directs these businesses to exercise their contractual rights in a certain way as to one alternative league and in another way as to a different alternative league, that’s a major problem.

Basically, the teams must decide independent of any arrangement with the league office whether to loan players to the AAF or the XFL. Any other approach could give the XFL an opening to pursue litigation.

Unless, of course, the NFL buys the AAF. Which would be the only way to have a direct, mandatory pipeline from NFL teams to AAF teams, at the exclusions of XFL teams.