Court lets NFL complaint go to state court

The Supreme Court won’t stop a Minnesota state court from

getting involved in a fight between the NFL and Minnesota Vikings

defensive linemen Kevin Williams and Pat Williams over violations

of the league’s anti-doping policy.

The high court refused Monday to hear an appeal from the

National Football League.

The players took the weight-loss supplement StarCaps, which

contained an unlisted but banned diuretic that can mask the

presence of steroids. The federal courts threw out the players’

appeal of their NFL suspensions, but said there were issues that

should be considered in state court.

The NFL wanted the entire lawsuit thrown out, saying the

players’ union contract and federal law trump state law in this


The two players argued that the NFL’s testing violated Minnesota

workplace laws.

”It’s a wonderful victory for Kevin and Pat, and it’s a

wonderful victory for employees in every state throughout the

country,” the Williamses’ attorney, Peter Ginsberg, told The

Associated Press. ”And hopefully it will make the NFL more

sensitive to what state Legislatures decide is important for the

safety of their employees.”

Ginsberg said a hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17 before the

Minnesota Court of Appeals on whether a permanent injunction should

be issued against the league so that the Williamses, who are not

related, ”can play out their careers without worrying the NFL is

going to suspend them for this ingestion of StarCaps.”

Ginsberg said a permanent injunction is needed because

eventually the preliminary injunction allowing the Williamses to

continue playing will expire.

In a statement, the NFL said the Supreme Court’s decision ”does

not address in any way the merits of the claims made by the

players, which have been rejected by every federal and state court

to consider them.”

The Williamses have been playing for nearly two years, going

back to the NFL’s initial announcement in December 2008. Both have

been playing this season.

Minnesota state law requires that an employer give an employee

who tests positive for drug use the right to explain the positive

test. The NFL’s policy says a positive result won’t be excused

because a player was unaware he was taking a prohibited


Attorneys for the NFL had argued it should be allowed to enforce

its anti-doping policy because it was a product of the NFL’s

collective bargaining agreement with the players union. The

agreement is governed by federal labor law, which they argued

pre-empted the state laws.

The case is National Football League v. Williams, 09-1380.

Jeff Baenen contributed to this report from Minneapolis.