Court Temporarily Blocks Clarett’s Entry Into N.F.L. Draft
Maurice Clarett, the college running back who challenged the National Football League’s age barrier to play in the league, was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court today from entering the draft this weekend.
The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, stayed a lower-court ruling pending a deeper review of the appeal issues. In February, a federal district judge said the N.F.L.’s requirement that a player to be out of high school for three years before entering the draft was a violation of antitrust law.
In its two-page order, the appellate panel said today that the N.F.L. had shown it could win its argument that young players like Clarett, a sophomore at Ohio State, should be barred from the league until they had satisfied the age requirement.
The panel also argued that a stay of a lower court ruling was warranted to safeguard the N.F.L. from harm and to ensure a deeper review of the appeal issues.
The panel said that any potential harm to Clarett would be lessened by the N.F.L.’s agreement to hold a supplemental draft if the appeals court later ruled in his favor.
Gregg H. Levy, a lawyer for the N.F.L., had argued that restricting the draft to players three years out of high school is not an illegal restraint of trade, as United States District Judge Shira Scheindlin in February. Levy said it was exempt from anti-trust provisions because it was agreed upon in collective bargaining by the league and the players’ union.
I don’t have enough understanding of labor law to know whether this was a legally sound ruling. It does strike me as bad public policy to ban someone who is clearly ready to play football from the draft based on an arbitrary age limitation, especially when the collective bargainers in question benefit from what amounts to monopoly status. Any of the arguments against allowing underaged players could easily be solved by the market. If NFL teams honestly don’t think Clarett is ready to handle the rigors of the sport, then they can simply draft someone else. If, however, he would go ahead of any older player in the draft–let alone a late 1st or 2nd round selection as currently projected–the arguments fall by the wayside.