Federal Judge Calls Time Out on Suspensions

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IDecember 5, 2008

This afternoon, Federal Judge Paul Magnuson granted the restraining order that Pat and Kevin Williams sought, due to a lack of time to make a proper judgement.

What began as a seeming end run in local court that would buy the two Minnesota Vikings defensive linemen a bit more time has turned into a federal case involving the NFL, every player suspended for the use of StarCaps, and the players union.

In the short term, this means that the Williamses, Charles Grant, Deuce McAllister, and Will Smith will all be available to play this weekend against the Lions and the Falcons respectively. Both teams need to win these games to keep their playoff hopes alive, and having these players available will certainly be a benefit to that cause.

The larger picture here is that the Union was able to present a convincing enough case to keep the case in court for at least the foreseeable future.

In cases like this one, this bodes very well for the union and for these five players. If the NFL was going to win this case, they probably would have already done so. Either the players had a clear warning that StarCaps had been added to the list, or there was some dispute that made it unclear.

The NFL contends that the players alone are responsible to be aware of what is going into their bodies, but the league is responsible for determining what can and cannot be used. This leaves observers, and the Judge, a two part question.

First, did these five players knowingly take a banned supplement?

The answer seems to be no, but the follow-up question is—why did they take the supplements?

Either they believed the StarCaps did not contain a banned chemical, or they did not know the ingredients of the product were banned. The first answer is the fault of the players, the second is a fault of the league.

The longer this case goes on, the more likely it becomes that the there was enough confusion within the NFL itself about whether or not the diuretic should be banned that the players, acting in their best judgement, could not have known they were opening themselves up to suspension.

If this is indeed the case, the judge will almost certainly side with the players and the union.