Earlier today, a Minnesota judge prevented the NFL from suspending Vikings defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams pending the resolution of their state-law statutory claims attacking the league’s attempt to discipline the players for testing positive under the policy regarding anabolic steroids and related substances.
The positive tests resulted from the ingestion of StarCaps, an over-the-counter supplement that had been spiked by its manufacturer with a potent prescription diuretic.
The decision means that the players will be permitted to play until either or both pending actions regarding the situation are resolved.
In addition to the lawsuit in Minnesota state court, the federal decision permitting the Minnesota claims to be pursued is under appeal.
The league has issued a statement in response to the latest ruling, and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has forwarded it to us:
“Today’s decision, which effectively exempts two players from the NFL-NFLPA collectively bargained program, further illustrates the critical importance of a uniform policy for all teams in the league and why this matter should be governed exclusively by federal law,” the statement reads. “The Court’s interim decision regarding the suspensions has no immediate practical impact since the suspensions will not take effect until the beginning of the regular season in September. In the meantime, our appeal to the United States Court of Appeals, which argues that the players’ state claims are barred by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, should be resolved before the start of the season.”
Though we’re not aware of the specific timeline that is being applied to the ongoing federal appeal, it’s not unusual for a federal district court ruling to remain unresolved for a year, sometimes longer.
The decision subject to the federal appeal was issued on May 22.
It’s possible that the NFL has sought an expedited ruling, but the federal appeals court is not required to alter its normal schedule simply because one or more of the parties asks it to do so. Indeed, many lawyers fear asking a court to speed things up, due to concerns that the response from an overworked court that doesn’t get paid based on the number of cases carried or resolved might be to sssslow things down.