League responds to Eller case, which adds a rookie


Last week, five former NFL players — led by former Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller — filed suit against the league and its 32 teams, making many of the same arguments advanced by current players in the Tom Brady antitrust lawsuit.

The problem?  The retired players aren’t suffering any of the same injuries as the current players, since the retired players aren’t, you know, current players.

And so the brief filed in court today by the NFL, a copy of which PFT has obtained, duplicates the arguments made against the current players’ antitrust case.  The NFL also argues that the retired players have suffered no injury due to any violation of the antitrust laws.  Instead, because the retired players focus on the possibility that the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Retired Players Pension Plan will be terminated one year after expiration of the labor agreement, that possibility has no connection to any actual or alleged antitrust allegation.

The good news for the Eller plaintiffs is that they’ve added a rookie to the list of plaintiffs, which allows their attack on the 2011 draft to proceed.  (In the Brady case, the current players argue only as to the 2011 draft that any restrictions of payment of rookies would violate the antitrust laws.)  That said, the expired labor deal expressly contemplates that one draft will occur following expiration of the agreement.

Even though the incoming rookies aren’t members of the union, the agreements reached by the league and the non-asterisked NFLPA arguably bind the incoming rookies, for the same reason that those who aren’t yet union members are bound by the three-year waiting period between graduation of their high school class and entry into the draft.  Per Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, the new plaintiff is University of Wisconsin-Stout receiver Antawan Walker, a largely unknown prospect who likely won’t be drafted, anyway, and who thus will be eligible for unrestricted free agency.

The NFL is represented in the Eller case by the same team of lawyers who will handle the Brady case, including renowned lawyer David Boies.

18 responses to “League responds to Eller case, which adds a rookie

  1. You have to feel for Antawan Walker. He may be forced into early retirement without ever having been drafted or invited to training camp.

  2. This lawsuit by Eller will end up just like the Viking teams he played, not successful in achieving its final goal. Just like his teammate Jim Marshall, its headed in the wrong direction.

  3. Was the University of Wisconsin-Stout named in honor of the beer or the fat people who drink it?

  4. Did you say Cornwell is returning to PFT Live? Questions for him:

    If the lockout is lifted by injunction (assuming the injunction isn’t stayed pending appeal) and parties return to the table and reach agreement, will current players’ drop remaining antitrust suits?

    If the current players’ drop antitrust suits, will retired players drop the Eller suit?

    Do any of these antitrust actions worry the owners or are they just hellbent on letting this insanity run its course? Couldn’t they end all of this by ending the lockout and returning to the negotiating table?

  5. Apparently Mr Eller and his gang didn’t get the letter on how generous and benevolent the NFL and owners are to ex players. How dare they! Why is he acting ungrateful like current players…….

  6. Deb,

    I can answer your questions.

    1.) Any negotiation that results in agreement and a new CBA between the players and league would involve a dismissal of the antitrust lawsuit. The players aren’t interested in the what they would gain from having stricter anti-trust laws applied to the league anyway, they just filed the lawsuit to gain leverage in negotiating a new CBA.

    2.) Since the two lawsuits are separate and filed by separate parties they have no connection to each other. The players can’t agree to have the Eller suit dropped. However, I don’t think you need to worry about the Eller suit, it is largely baseless and just a nuisance suit. Consider a publicity stunt by a couple retired players, did see the name they just attached to give merit to their attack on the draft. I wouldn’t worry about this suit at all. They certainly aren’t going to pay the legal fees to see this lawsuit through when they can’t recover any damages.

    3.) Yes the issues worry the owners. If the players were successful, football as we know it would be changed forever. Fortunately, the players nor league have any interest in seeing a ruling in the anti-trust lawsuit. Both will let it go as far as they can to gain leverage to force the other party relent on their demands and reach a new CBA. And no the owners cannot end this by lifting the lockout and returning to the negotiating table. That option is in the players hand. The players decertified and filed a lawsuit before the league ever locked them out. The owners could lift the lockout today but, the players aren’t dropping their lawsuit or returning to negotiations. The lockout is the pressure the league is putting on the players to drop the lawsuit and return to the table. The owners and players alike know that the players are not going to fund a lengthy anti-trust lawsuit if they can’t play football and get paid while the lawsuit proceeds.

    Hope that is helpful. And you can trust I know what I am talking about.

  7. @JIMMYSMITH Once again you make a stuiped comment you clown, and yes jim marshall ran the wrong way, but if you knew ANYTHING about football, past or present, you would know that in that same game, marshall caused a turnover late in the game & the vikings went down the field and scored the game wining touchdown. You & Packerzman are the most incompetent so called football fans ever. CLOWNS

  8. @cameran0804

    Just trying to provide a little historical perspective on the futility of the Viking franchise. I would say most of the PFT readers never saw the Vikings in the Superbowl given it was more than 3 decades ago so they have only read about their 0-4 record. But that hardly tells the whole story; many of those same Vikings that choked away 4 chances to World Champions went on to such illustrious accomplishments as investor fraud (Fran the Man), fisticuffs with the police (Carl Eller) as well as other numerous misdemeanors and bankruptcies. The Vikings actually have a rich history, its just mostly on the seedy side of the ledger.

  9. As a product of the UW system (UW-Stevens Point, hence the nickname), Walker probably wouldn’t have a shot at making it anyways. The UW system, outside of the flagship university in Madison, are Division III schools. Clint Kriewaldt (UW-Stevens Point, 6th round, played LB for Lions and Steelers) and Bill Schroeder (UW-La Crosse, played WR for Packers and Lions) are very rare exceptions.

    And as the saying around these parts go when deciding where to go to school, “When in doubt, go to Stout!” It’s kind of the red-headed stepchild of the UW System. Even UW-Superior has a claim to fame with Arnold Schwarzenegger graduating there in 1979 with a business degree.

  10. cameran0804 says: Apr 4, 2011 11:21 PM

    @JIMMYSMITH Once again you make a stuiped comment you clown
    Let’s put it this way…I can’t stand how every time the word “Viking” is mentioned on here he takes the opportunity to troll about it or he just brings the topic up on his own to troll about it..and I am a Pats fan. That tells you how creepy stalker obsessed he is.

  11. @hail2tharedskins …

    Thanks so much for the intelligent response to my post. Don’t get many of those 😉

    Though give is required on both sides, I support the players overall in this power struggle and understand they’re just using the antitrust suits for leverage. Every step in this dance has been choreographed, but sometimes judges move to their own muse and that makes me antsy. I want the players to prevail with the injunction, but not in the antitrust suits. Thanks for reassuring me that Eller is unlikely to proceed and there’s still hope for returning to business as usual.

  12. Deb,

    Your welcome. And don’t worry business will return as usual the question is just a matter of when. However, where we have differing opinions is that I believe the fastest way to put an end to all of this is for the injunction to be denied. Once the players know that they won’t be getting paid if they pursue this course of action they faster they will drop the lawsuit and return to negotiations. If an injunction is granted, you are going to open up a new can of worms in what will be the work rules instituted by the owners in the interim between now and whenever we see a new CBA – and remember the injunction doesn’t end the lawsuit (it allows it to proceed) and doesn’t return the parties the parties to negotiations. The injunction is just going to drag this out in my opinion. The injunction might allow for football (but without a CBA I’m not sure its the football we want).

  13. @hail2tharedskins …

    Yes … I’ve been pretending Nelson will issue the injunction, owners will scramble back to the negotiating table, strike a deal in a day, and the union will re-certify so all the old rules can be reinstated.

    But if Nelson lifts the lockout, Boies, et al, will appeal and file for a stay that could be granted. We’ll resume a waiting game that may kill the season. Even if the league didn’t appeal, the antitrust suits would continue pending an agreement. And without the union, the league can’t operate under its old rules. We may wind up with a chaotic system that rewards a handful of wealthy teams and big-name players at the expense of everyone else.

    I don’t want that doomsday scenario anymore than the pro-owner faction does (although some owners would be delighted). But none of these negative possibilities changes the fact that the owners built their fortunes on exploiting athletes. Considering how dishonest they’ve been throughout this process, I have no reason to believe they’ve changed their spots. And neither should the players. I just can’t be on their side.

  14. if u pay people handsomely, that isnt exploitation.

    and the players have been paid quite handsomely.


  15. @commandercornpone …

    I’ve never posted that current NFL players being paid millions of dollars are being exploited.

    Your reading comprehension skills are stunning.

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