Arlen Specter Says Terrell Owens Treated Unfairly By James Joyner

Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, held a news conference decrying the Philadelphia Eagles’ “vindictive and inappropriate” treatment of Terrell Owens and hinted that he might launch an investigation.

Senator says Terrell Owens treated unfairly (AP)

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.

Aside from the fact that something this trivial is hardly a job for a United States Senator–let alone one who so incompetently runs his committee–Specter is almost certainly wrong on this.

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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.”

Quite right. Further, it should be noted that Owens is 1) under contract with the Eagles and 2) being paid by the Eagles. If the NBA can suspend Ron Artest 73 games without pay, surely the Eagles can force Owens to sit while they pay his salary.

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.”

Given that he is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Specter’s personal opinions on such things carry rather substantial weight and he should therefore keep them close to the vest. Further, Owens isn’t being punished for a crime; he’s being punished by his employer. Football teams routinely bench players for conduct far less detrimental than Owens’ or, indeed, for simply not being as good as others on the team.

What’s especially odd to me is that Specter is making his comments now, after an arbitrator’s ruling, and not four weeks ago. Indeed, I think there’s a far better case to be made against the Eagles’ handing down a four game unpaid suspension than sitting him four games at full pay.

Update (2205): Specter backs off threat to investigate Terrell Owens’ treatment (AP)

Sen. Arlen Specter backed off a threat to have a Senate subcommittee investigate whether the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles violated antitrust laws in their handling of Terrell Owens. Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that he talked to lawyers in the Department of Justice about the issue. “I think it’s more a matter for them than us because we’ve got … a lot of matters which take precedence over this for our own time,” said Specter, R-Pa.

Ya think?

This content was used with the permission of Outside the Beltway.

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