StarCaps Ruling A Harbinger Of A Work Stoppage?

Despite the possibility that Minnesota law will insulate Vikings defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams from four-game suspensions for testing positive for a prescription drug secretly placed in an over-the-counter weight-loss supplement, Friday’s ruling in the StarCaps case strengthens the league’s overall position, as negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement loom.
After Judge Magnuson imposed a preliminary injunction blocking the suspensions in December, the union crowed that the discipline procedure (to which the union had previously agreed) was so flawed that the league would have no choice but to unilaterally change it.
In other words, the union was hoping that the players wouldn’t have to give up as much (or anything) at the bargaining table in order to secure the arbitration of all disciplinary suspensions by a truly neutral party.
Instead, Judge Magnuson’s ruling reaffirms the policy and the discipline procedure, which culminates in binding arbitration over which the Commissioner or his designee presides.  Thus, the league’s position on collective bargaining will be simple:  “If you want to get rid of the current system, you need to be ready to give up a lot of stuff.”
And this could make the negotiations even more complex, and potentially acrimonious.
Indeed, at a time when folks are smiling and shaking hands and publicly saying all the right things, Judge Magnuson’s ruling speaks to a poisonous atmosphere that easily could culminate in all-out war.
“There is no doubt that it would have been preferable for the NFL to communicate with players specifically about the presence of bumetanide in StarCaps,” Judge Magnuson writes at page 18 of his opinion.  “The NFL’s failure to do so is baffling, but it is not a breach of the NFL’s duties to its players.  It is clear that this situation arose because the parties to these cases do not trust each other.  The NFL does not trust the Union or the players.  The players and the Union do not trust the NFL.  No one believes that the opposing parties have any common interests.  The situation is deplorable and leads to suspicion and the sort of no-holds-barred litigation tactics so clearly on view here.”
Modern civil litigation routinely involves such uncivil tactics and attitudes.  The fact that Judge Magnuson witnessed something sufficiently worse than what he normally experiences to compel him to include that observation within his ruling suggests that, in this case, the venom is real — and significant.
Though this single dispute does not mean that the league and the union are on a collision course for a lockout, it demonstrates that the two sides not only feel strongly about their position, but also hold unflattering views of their adversaries.  Thus, one of the biggest challenges for Commisioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director De Smith will be to find a way to control their hatchet men long enough to allow a true feeling of trust and partnership to emerge.
We think that Smith is capable of this based on the manner in which he apparently has brought together a previously fractured union.  We think that Goodell is capable of this based on the manner in which he recently solved what had appeared to be a hopeless impasse with Comcast.
Moving forward, both men should take to heart the observations of Judge Magnuson, and both men should quickly move to silence the handful of persons in their respective camps who are putting the game we all love at risk, possibly because they’ve yet to find a way to control their own egos.

15 responses to “StarCaps Ruling A Harbinger Of A Work Stoppage?

  1. Great summary! Common ground is often the turf that neither side wants to step on when playing the balme game.

  2. The fact that the judge, a MN Viking fan who is painfully aware of the franchise’s inablility to win in the playoffs, would grant an injunction in the first place is what is baffling to us.
    OK, the Williams sisters got to play out the remainder of the season and for what? For Col Klink & company to go one and done in the playoffs. If I were a Viking fan (I would need to get a lobotomy first to even qualify), I would have rather serve the suspension last year than start the season 0-4 without their services.
    Time to pay the piper, I wouldn’t put a great deal of stock in what this particular judge has to say, its his own form of jury nullification

  3. Florio, after reading your posts about this situation, the question begs to be asked: If the NFL can’t suspend the players due to Minnesota law, can the NFL still impose a 4 game suspension when they play outside of Minnesota? Would the NFL have to follow the state law of the state where the team has traveled to in order to suspend them? Interesting scenario…

  4. Great analysis. I really do think it’s a forecast of what is going to come, and makes a lockout all the more likely, and again it’s the fans that get hurt the most.

  5. Question: How many braincells do you have to kill to think the vikings will make the super bowl? Answer: All of them! Just ask mullet man jerod allen

  6. Not having read the ruling here’s one view. All contracts contain an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Here the Court denounced the NFL – calling its conduct deplorable. This sounds in tort. (That is, outside the collective bargaining agreement.) Are these sufficient grounds for appeal? If so, does it make sense to appeal? Now let’s say the appeals court agrees and sends it back to this court. Then NFL is at some risk in this event. In other words, both sides have something to talk about. Instead of both sides trying to spin this their way – doesn’t it make sense to put this mess behind and the league agrees to drop the charges and there’s no appeal. Because if the two sides can’t agree on that – they won’t be able to agree on much else.

  7. JimmySmith says:
    May 23rd, 2009 at 1:03 pm
    OK, the Williams sisters got to play out the remainder of the season and for what? For Col Klink & company to go one and done in the playoffs. If I were a Viking fan (I would need to get a lobotomy first to even qualify), I would have rather serve the suspension last year than start the season 0-4 without their services.
    They were in the middle of a race for the division title. You can blame Williams and Williams for taking StarCaps, but you can’t blame the Vikings to want them down the stretch last season. There’s the possibility that they could win their case, there’s the possibility it could be reduced to something less than 4 games, and there’s also the thought that they can pick up better backups to fill in for the first 4 games of 2009. If I were Vikings team management, I’d want my guys to fight/delay the suspension as well.
    Yes, hindsight’s 20/20 and in light of their playoff loss it could turn out to be a bad decision. But knowing what they knew at the time, fighting the suspension was the smart move.

  8. Apacheman – No, the players would still be covered under Minnesota law. If you live and work in Illinois, and travel to California for business, your overtime hours aren’t suddenly calculated by California’s law for the period you are in that state.

  9. OK this is simple – instead of everyone bitching and moaning every time PFT has a Brett Favre story, lets appreciate this site for what it is. Anyone know of ANY site anywhere that would be capable of breaking down a complex legal case like this the way Florio does? And if you say the Wall Street Journal I’d like to see their sports section (or the funnies). I can’t remember how I found this site but when the hamsters went on strike I was lost. Yes I am a Vikings fan. And though I think losing the Williams Wall for 4 games is the least of the Vikings problems.Calling a 3 yard out on third and 9 – and having no one (allegedly) to throw the ball accurately in that instance is a more pressing concern for them.So if PFT posted a story that Childress signed a lifetime contract, Jarred Allen decided to retire and hunt , and AP got hurt and was out for the season, I would still be hitting this site everyday for any morsel of football I could get. Even if I have to read stories like this one 13 or 14 times to comprehend them. I Also want to say on this Memorial Day weekend GOD BLESS AMERICA and THANK YOU ALL VETERANS.

  10. Could not the commish simply suspend them under the personal conduct policy saying their legal battle was to encourage other players to engage in illegal activity? Since they are gaming the drug testing policy such that anyone in Minnesota can get a free strike?

  11. The more cases like this bounce around the courts, the more likely a mistake will be made with damaging consequences to the sport we enjoy.
    1) An obscure point not central to the case might not be mentioned,
    prompting a new lawsuit.
    2) A weak or malleable word like “reasonable” might be included in the judgement which will prompt another suit to define the weak words.
    3) Someone without common sense or working knowledge of the NFL imposing their concept of how the league should be operated.
    The new CBA will have to lengthened considerably just to spell out minute issues arising from the starcaps case. The time taken by lawyers to negotiate all that just increases the likelyhood of a very long work stoppage. Negotiations have not even started yet.
    The union provides some stability to football and some dignity to the players. The union cannot survive a multi-season work stoppage.
    The pettiness of the Williams in refusing to accept responsibility for taking a nonapproved product and banned substance is opening many potentential negative consequences to football and ethical standards expected of players.

  12. josdin00,
    Correct answer to the question but bad example. Overtime laws are governed by federal law for the most part (even where there are state laws, the federal law has more damages and won’t, in most jurisdictions certify a class under state law in the same action).
    Better example: marriage. If you get married in Minnesota, you are only married under minnesota law. If you then go to california, california has a legal obligation to recognize your minnesota marriage. I believe it’s called “full faith and credit.”

  13. Pure genius in these words, Florio — the essence of your popularity is on display.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.