PHILADELPHIA – Sen. Arlen Specter has accused the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles of treating Terrell Owens unfairly, and might refer the matter to the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Specter, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said at a news conference Monday in Harrisburg it was "vindictive and inappropriate" for the league and the Eagles to forbid the star wide receiver from playing and prevent other teams from talking to him.
"It's a restraint of trade for them to do that, and the thought crosses my mind, it might be a violation of antitrust laws," Specter said.
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The Eagles suspended Owens on Nov. 5 for four games without pay for "conduct detrimental to the team, and deactivated him with pay on Sunday after the suspension ended.
Arbitrator Richard Bloch said last week the team's actions were supported by the labor agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association.
"The arbitrator's decision is consistent with our collective bargaining agreement, and it simply enforced the terms of the player's contract," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
Some legal experts disagreed with Specter's view.
"To have an antitrust violation, you have to have a contract or conspiracy in restraint of trade," said Robert McCormick, a law professor at Michigan State University.
Matthew J. Mitten, director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University, said, "We're in the labor arena, not antitrust."
Specter emphasized that he was "not a supporter of Terrell Owens."
"I am madder than hell at what he has done in ruining the Eagles' season," the Pennsylvania Republican said. "I think he's in flagrant breach of his contract and I believe the Eagles would be within their rights in not paying him another dime or perhaps even suing him for damages."
But Specter said, "I do not believe, personally, that it is appropriate to punish him (by forcing him to sit out the rest of the season). He's not committed a crime, he's committed a breach of contract. And what they're doing against him is vindictive."