- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Though the Rozelle Rule has not yet been officially overturned, its days seem numbered, particularly since the commissioner retreated last week in the face of a sharp and thoughtful rebuke from Federal Judge Warren J. Ferguson.
The scene was the U.S. District Courtroom in Los Angeles and the case was that of Ram Running Back Cullen Bryant vs. the National Football League. The suit involved Commissioner Pete Rozelle's arbitrary award of Bryant to Detroit as compensation for the Rams' signing of free agent Wide Receiver Ron Jessie, a former Lion.
Bryant's suit was based on claims of antitrust infringement on his rights as an individual to pursue his chosen profession. During the hearing Judge Ferguson delivered a stern sermon to the NFL on the use and abuse of power. "With all power goes correlative responsibility of fair dealing and fair play. The economic power of the National Football League as demonstrated by this case is truly awesome. That may be the way it has to be if there is going to be an NFL. Such awesome control of the commissioner may be necessary for the effective management of the league. A trial may well show that. But the rule of reason cannot merely be wiped aside by such necessities."
An attorney for the NFL argued that players had to assume the risk of being traded when they signed contracts. "Yes, that's what your brief says," said Ferguson, "but the right of the commissioner to force a trade, while being legal, may not necessarily be right." Ferguson thereupon issued a restraining order that kept Bryant with the Rams.
Rozelle thereupon awarded the Lions a first-round draft choice—an abstract being—instead of Cullen Bryant, he of flesh, blood and feelings.
At the Louisville First National Classic last week, Ilie Nastase and Arthur Ashe were doubles partners for the first time. Jimmy Connors, Nasty's regular partner, came along to "coach," and seemed to inspire his friend to ever greater reaches of buffoonery. Ilie arrived at the Tennis Center for a match with his head covered; he removed the cover to show his face, which he had darkened to approximately the color of Ashe's skin. During the match he tried to hit a shot behind his back, and blocked off a linesman trying to check a call, telling him to sit down. At the tie breaker he couldn't remember who was serving and, though he and Ashe won, he shook hands with his partner a point too soon.