The NFL won the first round against the Williams boys.

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Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson has ruled that Kevin and Pat Williams, DTs for the Vikings, have to serve their 4 game suspensions ordered for violating the NFL Substance policy. The two were granted an injunction against the suspensions pending the outcome of the court case in Minnesota Hennepin County court. Judge Larson will hold a hearing today to determine if the injunction will be granted again pending the two players appeal of his decision.

This is a critical case not only for the NFL but for every professional sports league. The key issue revolved around the claim by the players that the state law of Minnesota over rules the negotiated agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA. In addition the Williams claimed that the NFL did not notify them within 3 days and the league leaked the information that the two had violated the drug policy. The court found that although both claims were accurate, the players did not suffer damages from the violations of procedure. The NBA and MLB both filed friends of the court briefs in support of the NFL’s position.

NFLPA Ex. Dir. DeMaurice Smith said “This policy is the most effective in sports when both sides strictly adhere to it and it is fairly applied.” He did not indicate if the union would participate in the expected appeal.

The two DTs were originally suspended for the first 4 games of the 2008 season but got an injunction pending the outcome of a trial on the issues.

There are several reasons that this case is critical to the future of the league. First, the decision indicates that the court accepted the argument that the league was a national organization made up of individually owned franchises. If the federal court finds as the state court did it would allow the league to avoid similar suits in other states based on laws in those jurisdictions.

Second, it could also provide a precedent for the American Needle vs. NFL case that the league is a single entity.

If the NFL succeeds in both cases, it will be in a much better position to dictate terms to the union. Smith knows that and as much as he wants the drug policy to be maintained, he does not want the union to be put in an even worse position in the negotiations for a new CBA.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/ Monday afternoons at 1 Eastern. He has also published several novels on

and edits .

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The NFL Drug testing policy is in jeopardy in the Courts.

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To many, the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the NFL prohibiting them from suspending Viking DTs Kevin and Pat Williams for the first 4 games of the 2009 season might look like no big deal. Those people would be totally wrong. It is a huge deal involving several issues including the ability of the NFL and other professional leagues to suspend players for taking unauthorized drugs.

The drug involved in the Williams’ case is basically water pills. The NFL has put the drug on the baned list for two reasons. First, some claim the drug is useful as a masking agent for steroids and other performance enhancing substances.

The second reason that this and similar drugs are on the baned list is the safety of the player taking it. Don’t forget it was a Viking OT Korey Stringer in 2001 that died from heat stroke after reportedly taking water pills for weight loss. The Williams’ both claim that they were taking the drug for exactly the same reason and did not know that what they had taken contained ingredients that were illegal.

Another major issue for the NFL is that the Minnesota State court system has gotten involved in the issue. It was a state judge that issued the original TRO. The NFL has always claimed that it is not subject to state courts because it is a single national organization with local franchises. The claim filed by the NFL with the Minnesota court that they were not subject to state jurisdiction was rejected.

If this issue rings a bell, it is because the federal court law suit by Needle against the NFL involves the issue of the league’s ability to sign an exclusive apparel deal with a single vendor.

Several reports indicate that the NFL has tried to negotiate a lessor suspension like 2 games in exchange for the Williams’ dropping their law suit. Neither player has budged saying that they did nothing wrong and would not accept any suspension. That offer by the NFL is an indication that they realize that their entire drug program could hang in the balance with this law suit.

The programs of all other professional leagues will also be subject to challenge should the NFL fail to win the day. All professional league programs are built on competitive balance, player safety and union/league agreement. Those programs will be at risk should the NFL’s long standing program be judged illegal even in part. The challenge is not only that the league’s right to suspend players for taking certain drugs but that the league does not have the authority to determine which drugs should and should not be on the list.

Look for the league to lose the case and appeal it to the federal court of appeals. Then the challenge will be whether or not the federal court will hear the case. If they refuse leaving a state court finding against the league without taking the case, the NFL can expect to spend a lot of time in state courts all over the league on various issues.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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