NFL Players Backed by Solicitor General

The Justice Department, supporting pro football players in a legal fight for free agency, recommended that the Supreme Court hear the appeal of players who are suing the NFL.

The NFL Players Assn. called the advice from the government’s top lawyer a victory in the courtroom battle it has waged with the league since the players’ unsuccessful strike in 1987.

In his recommendation to the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Kenneth Starr said a lower court went too far in ruling that the NFL is exempt from antitrust laws indefinitely after an impasse in collective bargaining talks.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year essentially approved the NFL’s free agency restrictions, saying the collective bargaining agreement allowed the league to limit players’ bargaining rights to specific teams.


The ruling triggered the association’s decision in November of 1989, to decertify itself as a union. The association also appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.