About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use
Best Quotes
Guest Commentary
Who Am I?
Monthly Archives

August 28, 2004

Clarett’s Legal Woes Continue

FROM THE FALLOUT OF THE SORRY CLARETT AFFAIR comes a studied analysis assessing what it all meant to us. In a recently published article, John Wolohan, associate professor of sports law at Ithaca College, recapped—thankfully with minimal legalese—the complexity and curiosity that is the Maurice Clarett case.

A quick primer:

• Maurice Clarett has a fantastic freshman year, leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to fame and glory.

• Clarett gets himself mixed up in a series of capers—involving classroom irregularities, misstatements to police and usage of others’ motor vehicles.

• Adrift in uncertainty, without a lot of support from any quarters (including OSU), Clarett misses his sophomore season.

• Clarett—no stellar student he—opts to abandon college classroom rigors in favor of a challenge to the NFL eligibility rule. The Curt Flood of college football?

Then the real fun commenced, and the articulate and learned attorney Wolohan boils the baffling legal machinations into somewhat understandable English. The following outlines the legal highlights of the case:

• Clarett files a lawsuit against the NFL, charging that the league’s draft eligibility rules are an illegal restraint of trade.

• A district court grants a summary judgment in favor of Clarett, declaring that the NFL’s rules were “blatantly anti-competitive.”

• Two weeks before the NFL draft, a 3-judge panel of the Second Circuit set aside the previous district court ruling, pending a full hearing later.

• The case is bucked up to the US Supreme Court for an emergency appeal, and the prior ruling for the NFL is upheld.

• Clarett does not get picked at the NFL draft (nor does USC’s Mike Williams, who was attempting a similar jump to the NFL after his freshman year).

• After a review, the Second Court of Appeals rules resoundingly in favor of the NFL.

• Clarett’s only options remain a review by the entire 12-judge panel of the Second Circuit court, and, if he loses there, a final appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Curiously, while much of the press before the rulings had to do with the supposedly fragile psyches and bodies of teeny weeny college players relative to the big, bad pro players, that ultimately had little to do with the ruling. Instead, the rulings had a lot to do with the collective bargaining procedures between the NFL and the players union (NFLPA).

Essentially, since the NFLPA is the exclusive bargaining representative for players, Clarett is prohibited from negotiating directly (i.e.-a special draft against previously established rules) with the NFL.

The court concluded that allowing Clarett to proceed with an antitrust suit would subvert “principles that have been familiar to, and accepted by, the nation’s workers for all of the National Labor Relations Act’s [60 years] in every industry except professional sports.”

Case closed.

(this 467 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was extracted from a 1526 article in the August 2004 issue of Athletic Business)