Originally created 05/25/04

Appeals court formally rules against Clarett



NEW YORK -- A federal appeals court formally ruled Monday against Maurice Clarett's effort to enter the NFL draft early, saying federal labor policy permits NFL teams to act together to set rules for when players can enter the league.

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan was consistent with the appeals court's refusal last month to permit the former Ohio State running back into the NFL draft.

A lower court judge had ruled him eligible for the draft, saying the NFL was violating federal antitrust laws by blocking Clarett's entry into his profession with a rule barring eligibility until a player was three years out of high school.

After the appeals court blocked Clarett's entry, saying it believed it would rule against him, the 20-year-old athlete sought help from the U.S. Supreme Court. Two justices turned him down.

The draft was held on April 24-25, and Clarett was ineligible for it. This ruling means he will not be eligible for a supplemental draft and will have to wait for the 2005 draft.

Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman in 2002, leading the Buckeyes to the national championship. He was suspended before the 2003 season for accepting money from a family friend and lying about it to NCAA and Ohio State investigators.

He also pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor after exaggerating the value of items stolen from a car he borrowed from a Columbus used-car dealer. He was fined $100.

Clarett lawyer Alan Milstein on Monday did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash said in a statement that the appeals court ruling Monday "leaves no doubt that legal challenges to the NFL's long-standing eligibility rules have no basis whatsoever."

"We are grateful for the Court's prompt attention to our appeal, but not at all surprised by the result, which represents a complete victory for the National Football League," he said.