Judge Rules in favor of Clarett

Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett was ruled eligible for the National Football League draft early Thursday by a federal judge who said that the league's rule violates antitrust laws.

In the ruling released today U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ordered the NFL to allow Clarett to enter this April's draft, the league intends to appeal.

A league spokesperson publicly stated, "We (the NFL) believe today's ruling is inconsistent in numerous respects with well-established labor and antitrust law, and we will seek review of the ruling in the Court of Appeals. We fully expect our eligibility rule to be upheld when this case is concluded."

The league had argued that Clarett should not be eligible because its rule resulted from a collective bargaining agreement with the players and is immune from antitrust scrutiny. The NFL also argued that its rule is reasonable and that Clarett cannot bring such a lawsuit.

"While, ordinarily, the best offense is a good defense, none of these defenses hold the line," the judge wrote in a 70-page ruling. "The NFL has not justified Clarett's exclusion by demonstrating that the rule enhances competition," Scheidlin wrote. "Indeed, Clarett has alleged the very type of injury -- a complete bar to entry into the market for this services -- that the antitrust laws are designed to prevent."

She said Clarett could bring the lawsuit because he was fighting a policy that excludes players in his position from selling their services to the only viable buyer, the NFL.

Maurice Clarett played one season at Ohio State, leading the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship. After being barred from playing in the 2003 season for accepting improper benefits from a family friend and then lying about it to investigators, Clarett sued the NFL last summer to challenge the league's draft eligibility rule.

Clarett has stated that he may apply for reinstatement at Ohio State no matter the outcome of the ruling. However, that reinstatement is now in jeopardy after a recent ESPN report linked Clarett with several improper actions, including ties to a known gambler.

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