Clarett appeals U.S. Supreme Court in order to enter draft

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Maurice Clarett filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to try to force his way into this weekend's NFL draft.

Clarett's attorney, Alan Milstein, asked for a stay of a decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals preventing the former Ohio State tailback from entering the draft.

Monday's decision put on hold a lower-court ruling that said the NFL can't force players to wait three years after high school before turning pro.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will handle the case.

The NFL said Clarett has little chance of success at the Supreme Court.

"There was ample support for the ruling of the 2nd Circuit, which thoroughly considered and completely rejected the arguments that Mr. Clarett's lawyers have presented to the Supreme Court," NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash said.

On Monday, Southern California sophomore receiver Mike Williams filed his own lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan, saying the NFL had issued conflicting statements about eligibility for the draft, thus causing him to sacrifice his college career.

If they wind up being eligible, Williams would be expected to go in the first round of the draft, while Clarett might not be taken until the second or third round.

Clarett argued in Tuesday's filing that the NFL would not suffer any harm if he is allowed in the draft -- but he would be harmed if he is blocked.

Clarett led Ohio State to a national title as a freshman, but he was ruled ineligible as a sophomore for accepting money from a family friend and for lying about it to NCAA and university investigators. Williams declared for the draft after a lower court ruled in Clarett's favor.

Clarett, 20 and out of high school two years, would be eligible for the draft next year under the current rule.

He dropped out of classes at Ohio State after the winter quarter, then declined to work out for scouts at the NFL's combine in Indianapolis in February.

U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that month that Clarett should be allowed in the draft. She said the rule excluding him violates antitrust law and unjustly blocks a player from pursuing his livelihood.

Ginsburg is a Clinton administration appointee who oversees matters from the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit. She could decide on her own whether to intervene or refer the issue to the full court. She could also ask the NFL to file a response.

There is no court deadline for Ginsburg to act on the request, but Clarett's lawyer told her in the filing that if he "is prevented from entering the draft this weekend, he will suffer substantial irreparable injury."

If Ginsburg or the full court turns down the request, the lower court's decision against Clarett stands.

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