WASHINGTON -- Maurice Clarett's bid to enter this weekend's NFL draft was turned down by the Supreme Court on Thursday, delaying for now his attempt to bypass the league's eligibility rule.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected his first request, saying she saw no reason to overturn a lower court's stay preventing the former Ohio State running back from being taken in the draft.
She cited the NFL's willingness to "promptly" hold a supplemental draft if the 20-year-old Clarett, out of high school two years, prevails in his lawsuit challenging the NFL's requirement that players wait three years after high school before turning pro.
Clarett filed a second emergency appeal with Justice John Paul Stevens, who quickly turned it down.
"Today's decision confirms the judgment of the court of appeals and allows us to turn our focus from the courtroom to the draft room," Jeff Pash, the NFL's in-house attorney, said in a statement.
Clarett's attorney, Alan Milstein, wouldn't comment on the rulings. Messages left for Clarett and his mother weren't returned.
Milstein had argued in a filing with Ginsburg that the player would "suffer substantial irreparable injury" if he was not allowed in the draft.
The NFL had said that allowing Clarett to be drafted could be unfair to the team that picked him and to a player who loses out on a spot because Clarett was chosen.
Ginsburg's decision also keeps out wide receiver Mike Williams of Southern California, who entered the draft after the original decision allowing in Clarett.
"The NFL may have been successful in keeping them out of Saturday's draft, but there's always the possibility of the supplemental draft," said Williams' agent, Mike Azzarelli.
While Williams would have been a first-round pick, Clarett was expected to be a late second-round or third-round choice.
Clarett has not played since the 2002 season at Ohio State, showed up out of shape at the NFL scouting combine, and had what most scouts considered a mediocre workout in Columbus earlier this month.
Neither justice ruled on the merits of Clarett's claim that the NFL's rule was arbitrary and anticompetitive, robbing young players of an opportunity to enter the multimillion-dollar marketplace.
His attorneys had relied on a court ruling letting major league baseball players move among teams, and other court decisions opening up the NBA and NHL to younger players.
The NFL contends younger players are not physically ready to play professional football and may harm themselves by over-training or resorting to steroid use.
Some teenage athletes have flourished in pro leagues. LeBron James was selected as the top rookie in the NBA this season, just one year out of high school. And 14-year-old Freddy Adu is the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer.
Clarett was appealing a stay issued Monday by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that put on hold a lower-court ruling saying the NFL can't enforce its three-year rule. Ginsburg was first assigned the case because she oversees appeals from New York, which is where the NFL is based.
Clarett led Ohio State to a national title as a freshman, but was ruled ineligible as a sophomore for accepting money from a family friend and lying about it to NCAA and university investigators. Clarett would be eligible for the 2005 draft under the current rule.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel had said it was "far-fetched" that Clarett would return to play for the Buckeyes. He dropped out of classes at Ohio State after the winter quarter.
"From an academic standpoint, unless the NCAA really changes its posture about academics, I think it would be difficult," Tressel said.
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