Clarett Case Marks Landmark Decision

The NFL has been ordered to provide a written argument inresponse to documents filed by Maurice Clarett�s attorneysthat ask for an emergency lifting of the legal stay preventingClarett and Mike Williams from entering Saturday�s draft.Sources close to the case say there will be a ruling before thisweekend�s draft on whether the stay issued by the 2nd U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals should be lifted.

ESPN�s Sal Palantonio reported thatSupreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has given the NFL until9:30 a.m. ET to provide its written argument against Clarett andWilliams, the University of Southern California wide receiver.

Ginsburg had three options when reviewingClarett�s emergency appeal filed with the Supreme Court onTuesday: 1) she could have denied Clarett�s emergency plea,effectively barring him and Williams from this year�s draft;2) she could have immediately lifted the stay, ruling against theNFL; or 3) ask for the NFL�s response — which is what shedid.

Her decision reinforces the thinking that theultimate decision could go either way. Clarett�s lawyers areadamant about the potential damage of a negative ruling.

�If the stay is not lifted it willprevent Clarett and another underclassman, University of SouthernCalifornia sophomore Mike Williams, from entering the draft thisweekend, causing them to suffer substantial, irreparableharm,� wrote Alan C. Milstein, Clarett�s leadattorney, in the emergency request to the court.

�The NFL did not show it would sufferharm absent a stay, let alone irreparable harm. Only two otherwiseineligible college players, Clarett and Williams, declared for thedraft since the District Court�s ruling, and both playersare undeniably qualified to play professional football.�

Those in Clarett�s camp preparing tolook at a glass as half-full should Ginsburg uphold the appellatecourt decision, have pointed to the option of the NFL�ssupplemental draft that Clarett would be eligible for. However, forClarett and Milstein, the supplemental draft remains anunattractive leftover.

�This offer does nothing to mitigatethe irreparable harm facing Clarett,� Clarett�sattorneys wrote. �If he is forced to forego the April 2004draft and enter a supplemental draft, he effectively will have lostan entire season of professional football. Clarett did not give uphis college eligibility so that he could, at best, participate in asupplemental draft or, at worst, be excluded from both professionaland collegiate ranks.�

Back in February, U.S. District Court JudgeShira Scheindlin ruled that Clarett should be allowed in the draftand that excluding him is a violation of antitrust laws, whichunfairly blocks players from pursuing their livelihood.

The decision was rightly hailed as a landmarkcase, similar to the Spencer Haywood �hardship� casein the NBA — a case that effectively opened upon the NBA toplayers under 21 years old. However, there are many in the sportsindustry that criticized the decision. Michael Wilbon of TheWashington Post said the decision is considered by some to be asbackwards and archaic as reversing Brown v. Board of Education.

With all that said, Ginsburg�s rulingthis week should, at least for the moment, lay this case to rest.The ramifications of the decision, however, will be felt for sometime.