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NFL responds to Williams Wall ruling

The NFL has issued a statement in response to the decision from Judge Gary Larson to stay the pending state court action brought by Vikings defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams aimed at blocking their four-game suspensions for allegedly violating the policy regarding anabolic steroids and related substances.

Both players tested positive last year for Bumetanide, a prescription diuretic that’s on the list of banned substances. They claim that they took an over-the-counter weight-loss supplement (StarCaps) that had been spiked with Bumetanide -- and that the league knew about this fact and failed to share the information with the players union.

“Today’s ruling recognizes that this case may well be decided by the federal court of appeals within the next several weeks and that no useful purpose is served by litigating the same issues in two different courts,” said the statement forwarded to us by NFL spokesman Michael Signora. “We continue to believe that issues regarding the application of the collectively bargained NFL-NFLPA policy on performance enhancing drugs should be resolved under federal law and that the policy should apply uniformly to all players. The other sports leagues and USADA support that important principle.”

The league’s statement doesn’t mention the fact that its lawyers wanted to press forward with the Minnesota litigation if the federal appeal fails, forcing Kevin and Pat Williams to contend with the issue during the 2009 season. Judge Larson has decided that, if the federal appeals court allows the state court action to continue, the state court case will not go to trial before the end of the coming season.

As to whether the federal appeals court will rule in favor of the league, we looked at the issue in May 2009, based on a United States Supreme Court decision from April of this year.

Our understanding of the law is that state-created statutory rights can be overcome only if the Collective Bargaining Agreement specifically mentions that claims arising under the statutes in question are subject to the grievance procedures created by the CBA. Since the drug testing policies don’t expressly encompass that claims arising under the Minnesota statutes on which Kevin and Pat Williams rely, the league is facing a fairly compelling argument that the CBA can’t undermine the claims arising under Minnesota statutory law.

In other words, if we lived in Delaware we’d be placing some of our lottery-ticket money on the Williamses.