Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fate of Vikings' Defensive Linemen All But Sealed

In a reversal of sentiment offered in his scathing order upholding a state court's temporary restraining order and granting the NFLPA and five NFL players, including Minnesota Vikings Kevin and Pat Williams, a temporary injunction against a league-imposed, four-game suspension, Federal District Court Judge Paul Magnuson all but ended any hope that the Williamses might have had to stave off their suspensions for use of a banned substance, bumentanide.

Judge Magnuson's order, delivered the day before the Memorial weekend, remands the case to state court for review of two state-related claims over which the federal court does not have jurisdiction. Those claims, however, were long-shot arguments for the Williamses, at best, and, as Judge Magnuson suggested in his opinion, unlikely to provide the Williamses with the shelter that they seek from the looming NFL suspensions.

While Judge Magnuson dedicated a considerable amount of his opinion chastising the NFL for not being forthright in providing evidentiary material in the case and for failing directly to disseminate to the players information that it had showing that StarCaps contained a banned substance, he nevertheless held, after additional digging by the Court, that the league's arbitrator was not the partial observer that he previously considered him to be. Specifically, Judge Magnuson stated that "[i]n the Order granting the preliminary injunction, the Court determined that the players had established a substantial question as to [the NFL arbiter's] partiality. . . . Further discovery has established that" the NFL's arbiter was not partial. That's a fairly unusual admission by a federal judge and one that clearly spells doom for the Williamses.

The case now will revert to the Minnesota court which will decide the two state issues. Given the state claims--one arguing that the NFL's test of the Williamses violates Minnesota drug-testing laws, the other that it violates Minnesota law against punishing use of a lawful substance while not at work--there is virtually no chance that the Williamses will not be lost for four games at the start of the 2009 season.

Up Next: Judge Magnuson Rips the NFL. Plus, state claims.

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