Wednesday Whys

Why is President Obama’s choice for nomination to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, well known in NFL circles?

Sotomayor’s connection to Major League Baseball has been well documented, but she should be a hero to NFL teams and their scouting staffs everywhere. In 2004, Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett (remember him?) was a true sophomore who wanted to challenge the eligibility requirements of the NFL Draft, claiming that the rule only allowing entry into the draft after three years removed from high school was an unreasonable restraint of trade.

Clarett sued in U.S. District Court and won, temporarily making him and USC wide receiver Mike Williams – and potentially all underclassmen -- free to enter the draft. The NFL, of course, appealed the ruling, arguing one of the canons of labor law: As long as the rule was collectively bargained, it was immune from antitrust attack.

Upon appeal, the District Court decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and a panel of judges including – you guessed it – Sonia Sotomayor. Her ruling read, in part, "The NFL argues that federal labor law favoring and governing the collective bargaining process precludes the application of the antitrust laws to its eligibility rules. We agree.” It did not matter that Clarett was not a member of the bargaining unit, the NFLPA, at the time the rule affecting him was agreed to. Labor law is clear that restraints include not only present members of a bargaining unit, but future members as well.

As for scouting staffs, one can only imagine what havoc a different ruling by Sotomayor and her panel would have wreaked. Without a delineation on eligibility for the draft and a ruling that the NFL rule was an unreasonable restraint of trade, all bets were off on who was eligible. This would have meant that NFL teams would have had to start scouting sophomores, freshmen and even high school players for the draft! And we think the manpower and expenses of college scouting are bad now? It truly would have been anarchy.

We have new Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor to thank for preserving scouting as we know it.

Why is it news that Tom Brady is back practicing with the Patriots?

Because he’s Tom Brady, I guess. There’s no news here; we can all stop staring (at his new wife) and go home.

Brady moves the meter and drives the product, so any news is good news for the media, the Patriots and the NFL when it involves Giselle’s husband.

The fact that Brady looks healthy after his horrific injury in the opening game last season is to be expected. The Patriots would not have dealt Matt Cassel within hours of the opening bell of the trading period in February without strong feelings about the availability and readiness of their superstar. The Patriots placed the franchise tag on Cassel for one reason only -- to get value for him in a trade rather than losing him in free agency with only the hope of a compensatory pick at the end of the third round of the 2010 draft. Brady’s health was not the issue, or so they hope.

Why would Anquan Boldin fire agent Drew Rosenhaus after all their time together?

Boldin has apparently tired of waiting for a new contract, whether from the Cardinals or anyone else. Drew did secure one contract extension for Boldin but not another. Drew was able to wrangle what was then a large contract extension out of the Cardinals in 2005 with two years still remaining on Boldin’s rookie contract. At that time, I was dealing with Drew on Javon Walker, and Drew rightly used that precedent from Arizona to sell the fact that he was able to secure that deal for a similar player with a team that had previously shied away from such extensions.

Soon after that, Javon let us know that he was no longer working with Drew, although the fact that there was a new agent did not change our unwillingness to tear up Javon’s contract. Boldin wants a new contract badly and, to this point, been been unable to secure it. He obviously feels a new agent will help that process. Time will tell.

Like Walker, Drew was not Boldin’s first agent, and now, like Walker, not his last.

And, finally, a Why to Ponder…. Why do baseball managers wear uniforms?

Is there a reason for this? Can we imagine NFL coaches throwing on jerseys and football pants to call the game on the sideline, or NBA coaches suiting up to call out defenses? Some of the images are not pretty.

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