On Tuesday, the NFL said it will appeal the ruling of U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson to send to state court two contentions made by the Williamses in their suit against the league after their four-game suspensions last November. Last Friday, Magnuson dismissed a lawsuit brought by the NFL Players Association with the exception of two claims made in the Williamses' case. The pair filed suit in Minnesota state court and received an injunction from Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson that delayed their suspensions. The NFL appealed to have the case moved to federal court, which is was. However, in his ruling, Magnuson said the two pending issues of the Williamses' lawsuit should be sent back to Judge Larson's court.
Both unresolved issues go to the matter of how the NFL conducts its drug testing and the unwitting ingestion of a substance banned by the league, but not listed on the StarCaps label. The case also includes claims that the league intentionally withheld information from players and that the NFL was aware from its own doctors that StarCaps contained the banned substance bumetanide. However, in his decision in the case of both the Williamses and three players from the New Orleans Saints, Magnuson stated that he believes players are responsible for anything they put in their bodies – the contention of NFL attorneys all along.
In a statement released by the NFL, it said the following: "The NFL has a policy that prohibits the use of performance-enhancing drugs. That policy applies nationwide to all 32 NFL teams and their employees. On Friday, Judge Magnuson correctly recognized that federal law permits such a nationwide policy, that the NFL's policy was properly adopted through collective bargaining with representatives of the players and that any state-law claims inconsistent with federal labor laws must be dismissed. For those reasons, the two remaining Minnesota state law claims also should be dismissed and we have asked the federal court of appeals to do so."
The state laws in question are claims under the Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act, which disallows discipline of an employee for a single positive test and the Minnesota Consumable Products Act, which deals with issues of consuming legal products off-site during non-working hours.
If the appeals court rules in favor of the NFL, it is unclear whether the Williamses will appeal to a higher court to get an injunction from the suspensions taking effect in Week 1 of the 2009 season. If it not overturned, the case likely will have difficulty getting started by the June 15 timeline Magnuson had set for the federal case (if it would have gone forward).
Viking Update will follow up on this story when a date is set.