WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to consider the appeal of former Ohio State (search) running back Maurice Clarett (search), who challenged the National Football League's draft eligibility rules.
Without comment, justices let stand a lower court ruling that said federal labor law allows NFL (search) teams to set rules for when players can enter the league.
Clarett was two years out of high school when he sued the NFL, arguing the league rule requiring that a player be at least three years out of high school violates federal antitrust laws. He said the stipulation was arbitrary and robbed young players of the opportunity to earn a living.
Clarett's lawyer in the case, Alan Milstein, said the case remains important even though Clarett is eligible for this month's draft. He would not comment further, but Milstein has said previously that Clarett continues to believe that other young players deserve the right to go to the NFL early.
Reached at her home, Clarett's mother, Michelle, declined to comment on the ruling.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York ruled in Clarett's favor in February 2004. But a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, blocking him from entering the 2004 draft.
On the eve of that draft, Clarett filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court, but Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens each turned him down, saying there was no reason to let him in the draft while his challenge of the rule was unresolved.
Regardless of how the high court acted Monday, Clarett is eligible for this month's draft.
Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman in 2002, leading Ohio State to the national championship in college football. He was suspended before the 2003 season for accepting money from a family friend and lying about it to NCAA and Ohio State investigators.
The case is Clarett v. NFL, 04-910.