SBD/March 29, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 18: Group Of Retired NFL Players Sues League

A group of retired players sued the NFL for antitrust violations yesterday, asking their case be joined with the one filed by active players and that the court stop next month's NFL Draft. The group, led by Carl Eller, charged, "The admitted purpose of this group boycott (lockout) is to coerce Plaintiffs and the other players to agree to a new anticompetitive system of players restraints that will, inter alia, drastically reduce prospective player compensation levels and benefit levels for retired or former players." The suit, filed in the same Minnesota federal court hearing the active players' antitrust lawsuit, seeks to represent the incoming rookies as well. Other members of the class include Priest Holmes, Obafemi Ayanbadejo and Ryan Collins (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel reported Eller v. NFL is "similar to the current Brady, et al v. NFL," though it is "based on a potentially clever legal maneuver that could box the league into a corner and prove a significant development in ending pro football’s nearly month-long labor impasse." The former players' suit also "covers draft-eligible prospects," who are not represented by the NFLPA under the previous CBA. As such, these plaintiffs "could potentially avoid one of the league's chief counterarguments against the Brady lawsuit -- that the union illegally decertified" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/28). Michael Hausfeld, the lead attorney on the lawsuit, said that the claim "argues that draft-eligible players who will not be drafted for another month are subject to antitrust violations by clubs because once they are drafted, they will immediately be locked out and will later be subject to a system with a salary cap, and limits on free agency." Hausfeld said of incoming, current and former players, "Given the fact the union decertified, there are three separate interests now. The first and third of those interests want to have their own voice, because they are not covered by the defense raised by owners." Hausfeld said that he "would file papers Tuesday seeking the injunction to block the lockout, but the lawsuit he has filed seeks no damages" (Judy Battista, N.Y. TIMES, 3/29).
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