Is it lawful for a professional sports league to punish an executive of a team when that executive isn’t employed by the league and, unlike a player, isn’t a member of a union that collectively bargains with the league?

The answer to this question has long been presumed as “yes,” despite the non-employing league lacking a contractual link to the executive—a third party—it fines, suspends, or even bans from employment with businesses owned by others.

This Article challenges that presumption. It does so by applying employment law, franchise law, and private association law to the unique relationship between sports leagues and their independently owned franchises. The Article balances the absence of a contractual relationship with league interests in fair play and orderly structure.

To date, this topic has been overlooked in legal scholarship. Yet it is timely given recent high-profile punishments of team executives in several of the major leagues.

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