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Second Circuit Holds NFL Draft Eligibility Rules Exempt From Antitrust Scrutiny and Declares Clarett Ineligible for 2004 Draft

May 25, 2004

May 25, 2004 - NEW YORK, NY - A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled yesterday in favor of Covington & Burling's client, the National Football League, in an antitrust action brought by former Ohio State University running back, Maurice Clarett. Clarett had challenged an NFL rule requiring players to be at least three years removed from high school graduation to be eligible for the NFL draft. The appellate court held that the challenged eligibility rule was shielded from antitrust scrutiny by the so-called "non-statutory labor exemption" and, on that basis, reversed a lower court decision that had declared the rule unlawful and deemed Clarett eligible to participate in the 2004 NFL draft.

Yesterday's ruling represents a complete victory for the NFL and its legal team, which briefed and argued the appeal on an expedited basis and obtained a stay of the lower court's order pending the Second Circuit's review.  NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash said in a statement that the court's ruling "leaves no doubt that legal challenges to the NFL's long-standing eligibility rules have no basis whatsoever."

The NFL's legal team at Covington was led by partner Gregg H. Levy and included associates Joshua D. Wolson, James M. Garland, and Benjamin C. Block. A copy of the Second Circuit's opinion may be found at

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