SBD/Issue 56/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFLPA Files Suit To Overturn Suspensions In StarCaps Case

Suspensions To Vikings DTs Pat (l) And
Kevin Williams Part Of NFLPA's Suit
The NFLPA today filed suit on behalf of Vikings DTs Kevin and Pat Williams, Saints DEs Charles Grant and Will Smith and Saints RB Deuce McAllister to block the four-game suspensions they recieved from the NFL "for violating the league's anti-doping policy," according to Steve Karnowski of the AP. The positive tests were derived from a "banned diuretic that can be used as a masking agent for steroids" that was not listed as an ingredient on a supplement. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, alleges NFL-appointed personel "breached their duty to the players and endangered their physical well-being" (AP, 12/4). ESPN's Chris Mortensen cited a source as saying that the action will "ask the federal court for a ruling" by tomorrow. The basis for the NFLPA's action is "founded on many of the same arguments that resulted in a temporary restraining order" issued yesterday in Minneapolis district court that allows Kevin and Pat Williams to immediately "return to the team" (ESPN.com, 12/3).

BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES: In Minneapolis, Olson & Zulgad report both Kevin and Pat Williams yesterday returned to the Vikings training facility after Hennepin County (MN) District Court Judge Gary Larson granted them a "temporary restraining order to rejoin the team." Larson acknowledged "leaving the case in limbo after he issued his ruling," but said that he is "poised to conduct a full hearing as early as today, if that's what the NFL wants." As a result, Larson could "still issue an order" before Sunday's Vikings-Lions game that would make the Williamses ineligible to play. NFL attorney Dan Nash: "I'm not sure what our next step will be." Nash added that if the NFL "doesn't try to move the case to federal court, he will want a hearing today." Attorney Peter Ginsberg, repping the Williamses, said that the players would "fight a move to federal court" from the district court. The NFL, in response to the ruling, said in a statement, "The NFL policy on steroids and related substances is a collectively bargained program between the league and the NFL Players Association. The program and the collective bargaining agreement expressly bar precisely this kind of lawsuit."  Larson issued his ruling after an "hour of vigorous debate from both sides." Nash, following Larson's ruling, "pushed the judge hard against allowing the players to return to the team even for a short time." Nash: "You'd have ESPN all over the place. This is going to be a sideshow" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/4). Larson yesterday acknowledged that he was "not familiar with the NFL or its" CBA with the NFLPA. Nash, after the hearing, said that the league has "not decided how to proceed" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/4).

STATE OF AFFAIRS: Hamline Univ. professor David Allen Larson and Minnesota-based attorneys Wayne Kenas and Marshall Tanick yesterday indicated that the state of Minnesota's drug-testing statutes give Kevin and Pat Williams a "fighting chance to beat NFL-imposed suspensions." Kenas: "Minnesota players are employed in the state of Minnesota. As such, they've got protections that the rest of the players in the league don't have." Larson: "Minnesota has a lot of details for drug testing, and I doubt that was done by the NFL, because these are specific to Minnesota." Kenas indicated that there are "several violations by the NFL" of the Minnesota Drug & Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act, and noted that there "cannot be discipline for testing positive for a drug not outlined by the state." Kenas: "They can ban it in 49 states, but they can't ban it in Minnesota" (Sean Jensen, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/4).

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