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Supreme Court Declines To Take Up Clarett Appeal

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Clarett, 21, was two years removed from high school when he sued the NFL last year, arguing the league could not legally enforce its rule that a draft prospect must be at least three years out of high school. His attorneys said that rule violated antitrust laws and denied younger players the right to make a living.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled for Clarett in February 2004. But a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, barring him from last year's draft. Clarett filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, but Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens turned him down.

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"There was zero chance that the Supreme Court would have taken this case, so I don't think many people were paying attention to it," said Tulane law professor Gary Roberts, an antitrust specialist.

Clarett began his legal battle after he was suspended from Ohio State for violating NCAA bylaws concerning benefits for athletes and for lying to investigators. In 2002, he set school freshman records with 1,237 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns as the Buckeyes won the national championship for the first time in 34 years.

His initial court victory prompted USC sophomore receiver Mike Williams also to declare himself eligible for the draft. Williams wound up hiring an agent, making himself ineligible to play NCAA football, and unsuccessfully sought to return to the Trojans after the Clarett decision was reversed.

Exceptions to laws barring restraint of trade can exist if they result from a collective bargaining agreement. While the three-year rule is not spelled out in the NFL's pact with its union, it is enforceable just the same, experts said.

The Clarett case "was a significant case from a legal standpoint because it has now drilled home to people ... that you don't have to have something in a collective bargaining agreement in order for the labor exemption to apply," Roberts said. "For some reason, Clarett's lawyer didn't understand that, and there were a lot of people who were making comments to the newspaper who didn't understand that."

The outcome made little sense to Bruce Svare, director of the National Institute for Sports Reform in Selkirk, N.Y.

"This essentially is a conspiracy between the NFL and the NCAA to protect college football," Svare said. "If there was not this collusion between the NFL and NCAA, then the NCAA would go down the tubes. Everything seems to be working out in favor of the NFL maintaining its free farm system."

Jerome Stanley, a Los Angeles-based attorney and sports agent who has represented several NFL and NBA players, said Clarett was "right on point with his position."

"The big difference between the NFL and the NBA is that the NBA Players Assn. is philosophically opposed to prohibiting people from working based on age," Stanley said. "The NFL Players Assn. gave the issue up."


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Source : http://articles.latimes.com/2005/apr/05/sports/sp-clarett5

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