In extending his injunction that prevents the NFL from suspending two members of the Minnesota Vikings and three members of the New Orleans Saints, it appears as though Judge Paul Magnuson may have been playing the role of Ike Turner, while Roger Goodell and the National Football League were playing the role of Tina Turner.
How so? Because Magnuson delivered a pretty substantial pimp slap to the league and their policies.
Here's what Judge Magnuson wrote in his opinion when he extended the injunction against the NFL suspensions:
"It is plain that the involvement of Mr. Pash's office and [Adolpho] Birch, Mr. Pash's subordinate, in the alleged conduct rendered Mr. Pash a partial arbitrator. ... Although Mr. Pash's decisions are well-reasoned, he glossed over the rather shocking allegations that the NFLPA makes. ... Such testimony calls into question the very basis of the NFL's position on banned substances."
The Mr. Pash he's referring to is Jeffery Pash, the person who heard the appeals of the cases of the StarCaps Five. Oh, and in a minor but somewhat interesting fact, Mr. Pash is also the NFL's chief legal counsel.
Basically, this is the equivalent of getting a judgment against you in a divorce proceeding, filing an appeal, and having the appeal heard by the mother-in-law that never liked you anyway. See, I've watched enough episodes of Law & Order in my life to be under the impression that arbitration, in a legal matter, is supposed to be handled by a neutral third party. . .not somebody that's on the payroll of one of the parties involved. That really doesn't strike me as impartial or neutral, but that's just me.
The Star-Tribune also talked to a couple of Twin Cities attorneys on the matter, and they're basically under the same impression:
Marshall Tanick, who has represented players in drug-testing matters, said of Magnuson: "He came out pretty strong on this one. This looks like, at the end of the day, the scoreboard is going to be in favor of the players."
John Klassen, an attorney who does much of his work in federal court, said Magnuson's language about Pash's partiality and the league's obligation to warn players is a clear signal that the tide may have turned against the NFL.
"It is no longer about the players' conduct," Klassen said. "It is about the NFL's conduct, which would be a surprise turn that the NFL didn't expect when they stepped into this."
After all, it was the NFL that moved to shift the Williamses' case from state court -- where they had obtained a temporary restraining order two weeks ago -- to federal court.
"It's the old lesson," Klassen said. "Be careful what door you open and what arena you walk into. And the NFL may come to regret that."
Yep. . .Roger Goodell and the rest of his buddies in the NFL front office might actually have to be held accountable for some of the decisions they've made in this case. That's something they're not expecting, because I don't believe Goodell has ever been held accountable for anything. Ever.
I sort of think that Judge Magnuson is trying to get these two parties to settle outside of court. While, in most court cases, it's in the defendant's best interests to settle for a deal, this time around the plaintiffs might be better served by attempting to reach a compromise. The NFL has a lot more to lose here than the StarCaps Five do, ultimately. . .whether they're smart enough to realize that is another matter all together.