MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Two days after U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman ruled against a trio of suspended players, she laid out her reasoning in a 14-page order that sets the stage for a larger antitrust lawsuit.
Freeman denied a motion for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed three players to compete in this week's FedEx St. Jude Championship. Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford had been suspended by the PGA Tour for their participation in the rival LIV Golf league.
“If LIV Golf is elite golf’s future, what do [the players] care about the dust-collecting trophies of a bygone era?” Freeman wrote in her opinion.
In the central element of the motion, Freeman ruled that the players did not prove that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if they weren’t allowed to play this week.
In fact, Freeman found that “superstar” status was “even more available to [the suspended players] in LIV Golf’s 'extremely fan-friendly' league.”
The ruling also dismissed the players’ claims for injury, with the Tour’s attorney countering that any damage was, “easily calculable monetary injury or speculative reputational harm – neither of which is sufficient to show irreparable harm.”
The court did agree with the plaintiff’s claim that the filing was timely and did not create an “emergency” situation, which is what the Tour claimed. The suspended players were informed on Aug. 2 that they would not be allowed stays to their suspensions under the Tour’s appeals process. The LIV players filed their lawsuit on Aug. 3.
Finally, Freeman addressed the overall antitrust claim which was filed last week in U.S. District Court Northern District of California.
“The court acknowledges that [the players] raise significant antitrust issues that are facially appealing. But the [Tour] has responded with preliminary evidence and argument potentially exposing fundamental flaws in plaintiff’s claims," Freeman wrote.
“These complex issues are best resolved on a more developed record.”
Scheduling for the antitrust lawsuit has not been set but Freeman offered two potential dates in fall 2023.