In the wake of Friday’s decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that Saints defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith will be suspended for taking StarCaps and Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams won’t, the NFL’s reaction centers on the obvious differences in treatment, and the union’s role in letting it happen.
“The real losers today are the players on 31 other clubs,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said via e-mail, “who no longer live under the same rules as players on the Minnesota Vikings — a result of the NFL Players Association’s failure to stand behind the program it negotiated with the league, and for which it has properly claimed credit with fans and before Congress. The most respected program in sports has been put in jeopardy by the NFL union’s silence and today’s ruling.”
In our view, however, the union had no choice but to join in the attack on the steroids policy, given the possibility that the union would have faced a lawsuit of its own for agreeing to allow the Commissioner to serve as judge, jury, executioner, appeals court, and governor when it comes to the determination of whether a player violated the policy.
But the league has a point. It’s hard for the union to claim it has helped craft a policy that gets tough on cheaters while at the same time fighting the very rules that demonstrate such toughness.
And to the extent that the NFL is concerned about differences in treatment between players on the Vikings and players with other teams, lawyer David Cornwell (who represents the Saints players who’ll serve their suspensions) has a suggestion — give the Saints players a pass on this one.
Said Cornwell via e-mail, “The same rational (uniformity) that compelled the NFL to argue against application of the Minnesota statute should also compel the NFL to refrain from suspending Charles [Grant] and Will [Smith].”
It’s highly unlikely that the league will see it this way, and thus the Saints players will be suspended and the Vikings players won’t.
In the end, it’s simply a matter of dumb luck for the Vikings. Minnesota has a statute that gives employees specific protections against drug testing, and Louisiana doesn’t.
As Cornwell points out, however, Louisiana has a similar law, but Louisiana provides an exemption to the NFL and the NCAA.
The moral of the story? Better lobbying efforts in the Twin Cities might have secured a similar exemption in Minnesota.