Back in 2008, the Minnesota Vikings’ Kevin Williams and Pat Williams were suspended by the NFL for taking a banned substance. Two years later, a lawsuit filed by the pair is one step closer to limiting the power of the league’s anti-doping policy. And the effects may be felt in all aspects of league-imposed discipline.
The players in this case took a banned substance that was not listed as an ingredient in an over-the-counter product. The league argued that it didn’t matter, they had issued a warning about the supplement two years prior to the suspensions.
But the state of Minnesota imposed an injunction on the suspensions because the NFL did not follow Minnesota standards when it comes to substance abuse discipline.
This week, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the NFL of the injunction. Essentially, the court has ruled that the state has the right to enforce its regulations and that the NFL is not above those laws.
The NFL may now be forced to rewrite their anti-doping policies to conform with all states in which the NFL hosts games.
But beyond that, there could be even bigger implications for the NFL in general. All of the sudden, all of the league’s policies, especially discipline, could be challenged if they don’t fall in line with state laws.
What if a state ruled that the league’s fines and suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits are excessive? Would anybody be surprised if a state congressman in football-mad Pennsylvania decided to pass legislation that an employee cannot be suspended or fined without due process? Would the NFL have to enforce discipline through state courts?
It appears that the NFL is dangerously close to losing a lot of their muscle when it comes to player discipline. Or that every league punishment ends up a court case. And if that happens, we could end up with a situation where the inmates start running the asylum.
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