Kirkendall Posted April 19, 2004 Report Share Posted April 19, 2004 NEW YORK - Running back Maurice Clarett was barred from entering this weekend's NFL draft by a federal appeals court that blocked a lower court ruling Monday. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (news - web sites) said the NFL had shown it could win its argument that Clarett and other athletes like Southern California's Mike Williams should not be allowed to enter the league until they have been out of high school for at least three years. The court added in its two-page order that any potential harm to Clarett would be lessened by the NFL's agreement to stage a supplemental draft if the appeals court later ruled in his favor. That possibility seemed unlikely, though, after the manner in which three appeals court judges questioned Clarett's lawyer, Alan Milstein, during more than an hour of arguments in a Manhattan courthouse Monday morning. The court said a stay of a lower court ruling was warranted to safeguard the NFL from harm and to ensure meaningful review of the appeal issues. "We are pleased that the court has issued a stay. As the court order says, we have 'demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits,'" league lawyer Jeff Pash said. "We are grateful for the prompt attention the court has given to this matter and we await its decision on the merits." Milstein did not immediately return a telephone message after the appeals court ruling. During the appeals hearing, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan asked Milstein why the NFL cannot exclude young athletes, suggesting the league was saying, "It's good for them, good for us and in the long run good for the sport." Judge Sonia Sotomayer said it was not surprising that the players' union would agree to exclude players such as Clarett. "That's what unions do every day — protect people in the union from those not in the union," she said. Clarett, who led Ohio State to a national title as a freshman before becoming ineligible as a sophomore, challenged the NFL rule that requires a player to be out of high school for at least three years before entering the draft. Williams declared for the draft after a lower court ruled in Clarett's favor. Seven others also declared for the draft after the initial ruling, but none is a prospect. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in February that Clarett should be allowed in the draft. She said the rule excluding him violates antitrust law and unjustly blocks a player from pursuing his livelihood. NFL lawyer Gregg A. Levy confirmed Monday what league officials said earlier: If a subsequent ruling makes Clarett eligible, the league later could hold a supplemental draft, something the NFL has done for players who entered the draft late. Ohio State suspended Clarett before last season for accepting money from a family friend and for lying about it to NCAA (news - web sites) and university investigators. In 2003, Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and led the Buckeyes to a national championship. He maintained he was not subject to the NFL's "three years out of high school" rule because it was not properly negotiated and because he was not in the union. Under the rule, he would be eligible for the draft next year.Milstein said Monday the NFL can't argue that players such as Clarett are not physically ready to play professionally. Williams was expected to be a first-round pick; Clarett was expected to be chosen in the second or third round. "The teams are lining up to hire these guys ... because the teams know these players are ready to play," Milstein said. He said only a "group boycott" by NFL teams would keep Clarett out of the league. Milstein also argued that the NFL uses colleges as a "free and efficient" farm system for developing players. "All of the risk is on the player," he wrote in court papers. "College football is a willing partner in this arrangement, as it generates millions of dollars for the colleges without their having to incur the expense of player salaries." In written arguments, Levy told the appeals court that Scheindlin's ruling was "fundamentally inconsistent with both established economic principles and common sense." He said the judge "strained to reach a decision that not only cannot be justified under this court's precedents but is also economically senseless." Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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