We’ve obtained and digested the 11-page written opinion from Judge Gary Larson regarding his decision to extend a temporary injunction that prevents the implementation of four-game suspensions against Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams until their appeal is resolved.
Our first impression? It’s highly unlikely that the Williamses will be suspended at any point in the 2010 season.
Even if the NFL expedites the process before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, nothing in Judge Larson’s order suggests that it applies only to the first of two levels available to the Williamses. After the Minnesota Court of Appeals comes the Minnesota Supreme Court, and it would be virtually unprecedented if both levels of appeal were resolved before the end of the calendar year.
Especially since none of the elected officials who’ll be handling the case benefit in any way from moving quickly to ensure that the suspensions can be enforced against two key players of the home team.
If anything, Judge Larson’s order seems to welcome scrutiny from a higher court. He finds that the Williamses enjoy a “likelihood” of prevailing on appeal, explaining that the issues presented in the litigation “were a matter of first impression,” and that Larson had no precedent available to guide him. Thus, even though Larson believes that there was no harm arising from the failure of the NFL to provide notice of the positive result within three days, in violation of Minnesota law, Larson seems to acknowledge that an appeals court may find that he was wr-wr-wr-wr-judicially misinformed.
“Public policy . . . dictates that [the NFL] should not be permitted to benefit from its own misconduct,” Larson wrote. “Here, [the NFL] knew Star Caps contained Bumetanide, that players were ingesting Bumetanide, that Bumetanide was dangerous, and withheld information about Star Caps, knowing that players would suffer as a result. [The NFL] created a trap that it knew would result in violations of the program.”
In response to the argument by the league that it would be harmed by an injunction, Judge Larson disagreed.
“[The NFL] could have easily avoided this very situation by informing players or teams about what it already knew — that Star Caps contained a hidden, dangerous substance,” Larson explained. “[The NFL] knew that many players were already inadvertently ingesting Bumetanide, and continued to place the health, safety, and welfare of its players in jeopardy, so that Adolpho Birch could play a game of gotcha. The league clearly allowed a half dozen other players to use Bumetanide without punishment.”
Based on Larson’s statements, there’s a chance that the suspensions ultimately will be scuttled. Until the appeals are resolved, Pat and Kevin Williams — and Saints defensive end Will Smith — will be permitted to keep playing.
It’s very good news for Vikings and Saints fans. And also for NBC, which will have all three players available when the season kicks off on September 9 with a nationally-televised game between Minnesota and New Orleans.