Court lets NFL complaint go to state court

Published 12:53 pm Monday, November 8, 2010

WASHINGTON  — The Supreme Court won’t stop a Minnesota state court from getting involved in a fight between the NFL and Minnesota Vikings defensive linemen Kevin Williams and Pat Williams over violations of the league’s anti-doping policy.

The high court refused Monday to hear an appeal from the National Football League.

The players took the weight-loss supplement StarCaps, which contained an unlisted but banned diuretic that can mask the presence of steroids. The federal courts threw out the players’ appeal of their NFL suspensions, but said there were issues that should be considered in state court.

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The NFL wanted the entire lawsuit thrown out, saying the players’ union contract and federal law trump state law in this case.

The two players argued that the NFL’s testing violated Minnesota workplace laws.

“It’s a wonderful victory for Kevin and Pat, and it’s a wonderful victory for employees in every state throughout the country,” the Williamses’ attorney, Peter Ginsberg, told The Associated Press. “And hopefully it will make the NFL more sensitive to what state Legislatures decide is important for the safety of their employees.”

Ginsberg said a hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17 before the Minnesota Court of Appeals on whether a permanent injunction should be issued against the league so that the Williamses, who are not related, “can play out their careers without worrying the NFL is going to suspend them for this ingestion of StarCaps.”

Ginsberg said a permanent injunction is needed because eventually the preliminary injunction allowing the Williamses to continue playing will expire.

The Williamses have been playing for nearly two years, going back to the NFL’s initial announcement in December 2008. Both have been playing this season.

Minnesota state law requires that an employer give an employee who tests positive for drug use the right to explain the positive test. The NFL’s policy says a positive result won’t be excused because a player was unaware he was taking a prohibited substance.

Attorneys for the NFL had argued it should be allowed to enforce its anti-doping policy because it was a product of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with the players union. The agreement is governed by federal labor law, which they argued pre-empted the state laws.

The case is National Football League v. Williams, 09-1380.