Judge David Doty has told the NFL Players Assn. that he won’t stop the new system of free agency under which 130 players have changed teams in six weeks.
But the federal judge presiding over the antitrust suit filed by the union at the end of the 24-day strike in 1987 did not specifically validate the new system as a way for the league to satisfy antitrust requirements. He didn’t mention that subject at all.
Union officials noted that Doty did nothing to change the wording of last year’s decision, in which he wrote at one point: " . . . The court finds it probable that the players will prevail at trial and that at least some of the players are likely to sustain irreparable harm if they are not immediately permitted to sign with other NFL clubs.”
Doty’s new decision reprinted that section, prompting Dick Berthelsen, the union’s general counsel, to observe: “This is basically a Xerox of last year’s ruling.”
The suit, itself, remains in limbo, with no court date set until all preliminary petitions have been resolved.