Court of Appeals sides with NFL – Williams Wall may yet be suspended

Breaking news on the story that will never die: The Minnesota State Court of Appeals has sided with the NFL in the 2008 StarCaps case against Vikings’ defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

The other players that were impacted by the ruling were Pat Williams, Will Smith, Charles Grant and Grady Jackson. The latter two players are out of football and Pat Williams is a free agent. This means Kevin Williams and Smith could be on the reserve/suspended list for the first four games in 2011 (assuming there even is a season, that is).

StarCaps was a dietary supplement the players took that is banned under the league’s substance abuse policy. The supplement can be used as a masking agent for steroid use, which is obviously what the NFL was most concerned with. Of course, cough drops are probably banned under the league’s substance abuse policy, so what isn’t the NFL concerned with? (Not that I’m complaining about the league wanting to be drug-free.)

This has to be one of the most annoying stories in sports and here’s hoping that it finally has an ending. It would be nice if the league were just as motivated and relentless in its efforts to sign a new CBA deal as it is trying to suspend these four players.

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Williams Wall likely to avoid suspension again?

Back in 1874, the NFL suspended Vikings’ defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams four games each for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. But with the help of a Minnesota state judge who apparently loves himself some Minnesota Vikings, the Williamseseseses appear likely to once again avoid their suspensions.

The Minnesota Star-Tribune shares new details of this never-ending story:

Judge Gary Larson recently ruled that the Williamses must serve their four-game suspensions after testing positive for a banned diuretic. But Larson granted the injunction Friday that will allow the Vikings to play during the appeals process.

This obviously is good news for the Vikings. Essentially, nothing has changed for the team because the Vikings will have their Pro Bowl defensive tackles while the legal process continues to play out.

The only question now is, how long will the appeals process take? Will it be resolved before the season or drag on for many more months?

Here’s the deal, their case would have to pass through both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Minnesota Supreme Court before the two players served their suspensions. Judge Gary “the Viking” Larson knows that the process would probably take quite a while, so the chances of the Williams Wall playing this year are very high.

As I’ve written before, this is a tricky situation. If the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Larson’s decision, then it looks as if the NFL has more power than state courts. But if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t overrule the decision, then maybe more players will look for loopholes when they fail drug tests.

When I do posts about this story, I feel like I’m writing an episode of “The Dukes of Hazzard.” All right, in this scene, we’ll have the Williams boys get away from Roger Goodell. Then in the next scene, we’ll have Goodell almost catch them, but then they get away again. We’ll do this over and over and over again until the end of the show. Cool?

Photo from fOTOGLIF

NFL not giving up on Williams Wall suspension

Despite Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson’s ruling that the league failed to abide to state law in notifying Vikings’ defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams of their positive drug test, the NFL is not giving in.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the NFL is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Larson’s ruling so that the league can suspend the two players four games for violating its anti-drug policy.

The NFL cited the National Labor Relations Act in its filing on Thursday, saying its collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union protects its drug policy from lawsuits in state courts.

The Williamses tested positive in 2008 for a banned diuretic, bumetanide, that was not listed as an ingredient on the label for the weight-loss supplement StarCaps. The diuretic is not a steroid, but the league said it can be used as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs and therefore is not allowed.

The players sued to block their suspensions, saying the NFL broke Minnesota labor law in applying its drug policy. The NFL wants the Supreme Court to overturn a federal judge’s decision last year that sent the case to state court.

This is a tricky situation. If the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Larson’s decision, then it looks as if the NFL has more power than state courts. But if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t overrule the decision, then maybe more players will look for loopholes when they fail drug tests.

Many feel as though the NFL’s drug policy is extreme, but it’s in place to ensure that players don’t cheat the game. While I would wholeheartedly agree that it’s a bit absurd for the league to force players to notify teams when they’re about to use over-the-counter cough medicine (which is actually on the NFL’s banned list), those rules are in place in effort to keep the playing field as level as possible.

In the end, I don’t think the Williams Wall will ever be suspended. I can’t imagine that the U.S. Supreme Court would side with the NFL, but then again, crazier things have happened.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Judge blocks Williams Wall suspension, but will it hurt Vikings in the end?

The AP is reporting that a district judge has granted Vikings’ defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams a block against their four-game suspensions for using a banned substance. The “Williams Wall” now has a temporary restraining order against the NFL and the judge has also scheduled a July 22 hearing to consider whether or not he’ll put a hold on state court proceedings.

This could be construed as either good or a bad for the Vikings. Sure, Minnesota could have the Williams Wall for Week 1 against the Browns, but what happens if the NFL wins this battle and suspends the pair during a critical point during the season?

If the Williams Wall is truly innocent or victims are victims in some way, then nobody should blame them for fighting their suspensions. But the NFL isn’t going to give up here, especially considering it doesn’t want to take on an image that its players are using banned substances to help them compete on the field (a la Major League Baseball).

Last year, the Williams Wall avoided a four-game suspension during a critical stretch in the season and they helped the Vikings make the playoffs. If they serve their four game suspension over the course of the first four weeks of this season, they’ll miss games against the Browns, 49ers, Lions and Packers. Granted, no win is guaranteed in the NFL, but the Vikings certainly have a much easier schedule at the start of the year than the middle and end.

Again, if the Williams Wall is innocent, then they shouldn’t back down. But if the two think that they’re going to sneak one past the NFL with this judge’s help, then they probably have another thing coming and could wind up missing crucial games during the middle or end of the season. Everybody (i.e. the Williams Wall and the Vikings) seems to be playing with fire here.

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