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 https://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 .