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Bader Ginsburg to hear emergency appeal

4/21/2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Maurice Clarett's status for the NFL draft
is now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Clarett's attorney, Alan Milstein, filed an emergency appeal to
the Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking for a stay of a federal
appeals court's decision from 24 hours earlier preventing the
former Ohio State tailback from being in this weekend's draft.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will handle the case.

In 1971, lawyers for Detroit high school star Spencer Haywood
followed the same approach. A stay preventing Haywood from going in
the NBA draft was tossed out by Justice William O. Douglas, opening
the door for underclassmen and teenagers to play pro basketball.

"It's the exact same scenario," Milstein said in a telephone
interview with The Associated Press. "It just needs to play out
the same."

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the stay on Monday,
putting a hold on a lower-court ruling that said the NFL can't
force players to wait three years after high school before turning
pro.

The NFL said the appellate decision will ultimately stand.

"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.

Southern California sophomore receiver Mike Williams filed his
own lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan on Monday, saying the NFL
issued conflicting statements about eligibility for the draft which
caused 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 wouldn't suffer
any harm if he's 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
was ruled ineligible as a sophomore for accepting money from a
family friend and 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.

U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in February
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 said if no decision is rendered before the
draft Clarett "will suffer substantial irreparable injury."

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

Should the court decide against Clarett -- and by extension,
Williams -- the players could only return to play college football
if they met academic standards and their universities successfully
petitioned the NCAA for reinstatement.

Steve Snapp, an assistant athletic director at Ohio State, said
there were significant obstacles in the way of Clarett regaining
his eligibility even if he wanted to rejoin the Buckeyes.

"There is a number of issues about whether or not he has
professionalized himself," Snapp said.

The NFL also could be compelled legally to include Clarett and
Williams in a supplemental draft. Former stars such as Reggie
White, Cris Carter and Bernie Kosar entered the NFL after being
taken in supplemental drafts.

Clarett's mother said her son would continue to train as if he would be playing in the NFL.

"He's continuing to work out so his mind and body are in sync," Michelle Clarett told The Columbus Dispatch for Tuesday's editions.