- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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I hesitate to tread into the legal analysis necessary to connect (or rule out a connection) between Monday's landmark American Needle case and the ongoing Williams Wall trial in Minnesota. But based on your questions to the mailbag, there is a high level of interest. Josh of New York was among those seeking a general conversation on the topic:
I just read that the Supreme Court ruled today that the NFL is comprised of 32 separate teams, not one "NFL Entity" for antitrust law purposes. Do you think this ruling will have any effect on the Minnesota appellate court review of the Williams' decision? I'm not intimately familiar with the nuts and bolts of the Supreme Court and MN rulings, but as an attorney, I would be chomping at the bit to use the Supreme Court ruling as precedent in the MN case (i.e., as separate teams, perhaps they are subject to separate state labor laws).
In the Needle case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the NFL is made up of 32 competing businesses and therefore can't always make league-wide business deals because it inhibits competition. On first glance, at least, I'm not sure that the ruling will impact the eligibility of Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.
As you recall, Hennepin County district court Judge Gary Larson actually ruled that NFL's anti-doping testing policy violated Minnesota state laws. He agreed with the players that their legal employer is the NFL, but he upheld their four-game suspension because he said they were not harmed by the violation.
So if the American Needle case somehow made the Vikings their legal employer, it would only weaken their position. It wouldn't impact the legal analysis of whether the players were harmed by the violation.
Those with an opinion, legal or otherwise, feel free to chime in. It's always possible that a connection could develop, but what I've been led to believe at this point is there won't be a substantive one that could somehow reverse the players' suspensions. Put better: If the players do get their suspensions permanently lifted, it won't be because of the American Needle case.