The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Saturday, February 21, 2004

Some thoughts on the Clarett Decision 

I know its been a couple weeks since the Federal District court ordered the NFL to make Clarett eligible for the NFL draft... but I finally got around to reading the actual Text of the Decision.

Its actually quite long... but its an interesting read. I'm not a lawyer, but I've read enough legal decisions to realize that they actually are written in non-legalize... which is very good I think. However, now that I've read the entire thing, I can definitely say that this Judge is nuts.

One of the more interesting parts of the decision is where she explains the fact that the Collective Bargaining Agreement terms regarding the three year rule are not exempt from Anti-Trust law:

In sum, none of the cases cited by the NFL involve job eligibility. The league provisions addressed in Wood, Williams, and Caldwell govern the terms by which those who are drafted are employed. The Rule, on the other hand, precludes players from entering the labor market altogether, and thus affects wages only in the sense that a player subject to the Rule will earn none. But the Rule itself, for the reasons just discussed, does not concern wages, hours, or conditions of employment and is therefore not covered by the nonstatutory labor exemption.

Forgive me for asking stupid questions... but isn't the rule directly related to conditions of employment? A condition of employment is that you are out of high school for three years. Eligibility for the draft is essentially a condition to employment... but for some reason she refuses to draw that obvious connection.

The NFL says that there are four reasons that the rule is reasonable:

The purposes of the eligibility rule include [1] protecting younger and/or less experienced players — that is, players who are less mature physically and psychologically — from heightened risks of injury in NFL games; [2] protecting the NFL’s entertainment product from the adverse consequences associated with such injuries; [3] protecting the NFL clubs from the costs and potential liability entailed by such injuries; and [4] protecting from injury and self-abuse other adolescents who would over-train — and use steroids — in the misguided hope of developing prematurely the strength and speed required to play in the NFL.

In making her decision, the Judge throws out these very good reasons... stating:

All of the League’s justifications for the Rule boil down to the same basic concern: younger players are not physically or mentally ready to play in the NFL. But as the NFL’s own affiant concedes, he “timeframe” for a player’s physical and psychological maturation “varies from individual to individual.” That being so, age is obviously a poor proxy for NFL-readiness, as is a restriction based solely on height or weight.

Age is a poor proxy huh? Yet we use age as a proxy for eligibility in a whole matter of issues in our daily lives. You have to be 16 to drive, 18 to smoke, vote, join the armed force, and enter into a binding contract. You even have to wait until you're are 21 to drink. What does age have to do with any of these activities? Absolutely none. We use age as a proxy judgement on maturity for all of these. So shouldn't all these laws be struck down then? You should be able to drive whenever you can pass the driving test. You should have to take a test before you can vote (oh wait... they tried that in the South to prevent blacks from voting... and that was rightly struck down).

We use age as a proxy because we can define a very clear demarkation line on eligibility that prevents abuse of more subjective testing means (like the voting example). Sure some younger people may be mature enough to vote before 18 for example... but the point is... its not permanent. Wait a couple years. The same goes for Clarett. Wait a year like everyone else. But of course for him... he screwed up his life so much that he probably won't be able to play college ball next year, which is his real motivation. However, thats his fault, not the NFL's.

Wow... this post ended up being a lot longer than I intended... oh well.


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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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