I am down at the Hennepin County Government Center. The Williams trial is continuing. This morning the usual flock of media was in attendance to cover their entry into the courtroom. The Williams Brothers showed up and went through the process of entering the courtroom.
A while later, Brad Childress, head coach of the Minnesota Vikings showed up. I recorded both using my Canon Elph.
I found out the trial was going on before Judge Larsen and proceeded to floor 16. Since it is a courtroom, I will have to take my hat off.
The courtroom is not very crowded right now. There are plenty of seats reserved for the plaintiffs and the defendants as well as the media. I am here early enough to secure a seat, but the courtroom is filling up. Unlike the state mock trial, the courtroom is not overflowing. Trial observers are engaged in friendly banter about law and politics. The legal teams are busily unpacking their documents and making last minute preparations for trial. It is somewhat hard to remember that this is really about playing a game. This is because it has become such a big business.
This is expected to be the last day of trial. There are other matters that the Judge must attend to before the trial begins. Apparently a $53 million dollar ponzi scheme required sentencing. It is now 9:30 a.m. People are getting anxious waiting for the trial to begin.
It is 9:45 a.m., Judge Larson comes out and informs the audience there will be another ten minute delay while the court reporter takes a break. The judge wants to keep the trial running. An informal discussion is held with the lawyers and it is determined that both sides are interested in submitting briefs.
Boredom fills the air. People are reading newspapers, books, and checking their instant messages. If Twitter had not closed my accounts, I would probably be upstairs at the law library tweeting. Instead, I’m spending my time waiting for the trial to begin.
At 9:55, the Judge takes the bench. The legal teams flood back into the courtroom. Pat and Kevin Williams enter the courtroom and Brad Childress takes his seat in the plaintiffs section.
Judge Larson again apologizes for a late start. He expects two witnesses to be called this morning. The financial expert will be called in the afternoon. The goal is to get to closing arguments.
There is a discussion about a stipulation concerning a media leak concerning the identity of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.
The first witness is coach Brad Childress. Brad Childress is sworn and takes the stand. Brad Childress is prepared to testify without a microphone. The coach says his name is John B. Childress. He is the football coach for the Minnesota Vikings. He has coached the Vikings for 4 season and is heading into his 5th season. He has been in the NFL for 11-12 years. He appears under subpoena.
In August 2008, Kevin Williams followed by Pat Williams told Brad Childress they had tested positive in the drug program. Childress claims the Vikings are governed by a culture of honesty and that Kevin and Pat Williams told him about the drug test results.
The testimony discusses someone named Jay Glazer who apparently broadcast the fact that Kevin and Pat Williams failed the drug test.
Finally, Brad Childress is asked who the quarterback is going to be. Everyone laughs. Brad Childress leaves.
The next witness is called. Rob Brzezinski is the next person to testify. Brzensiski is employed by the Minnesota Vikings. He is vice president of operations. He has been in the NFL for 18 years. He spent some time with the Dolphins before joining the Vikings.
Are the vikings a franchisee? Brzezinski says the vikings are a franchisee. He believes the clubs operate under the requirements of the league and then have flexibility under that to run themselves as they see fit. The Constitution and by laws, the collective bargaining agreement all apply to the clubs. Brzensiski says there is no discretion in how the steriod program is run. Vikings have no discretion under the program.
Brzensiski is then asked about league rules and regulations that govern the clubs. The rules dictate the color of the chin strap a player has to wear. Rule 507 becomes the subject of inquiry. The Vikings have no discretion to vary any of the rules and regulations.
The draft then becomes the subject of inquiry. The rules of the draft are governed by the NFL. The new draft format is now Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
The inquiry then focuses on training camps. Only signed players can participate.
The Vikings cannot engage in side contracts outside the scope of the NFL control. All deals must be reduced to writing and approved by the NFL.
The NFL polices violations of the salaries. Revenue sharing occurs between higher and lower earning clubs to maintain competitive parity. The television contracts are negotiated by the NFL and the clubs get paid by the NFL under formulas.
A performance based pool exists to compensate NFL players. League revenues go into the performance based pools. The league decides the first three games of the preseason, club gets to decide game four.
The league decides who plays in the Hall of fame game.
The NFL has a contract with CBS to broadcast the AFC. Fox has the contract to broadcast the NFC. These are league determined contracts. ESPN gets Monday night. The NFL makes the football schedule. ABC broadcasts a Sunday night game.
There are sponsors of the NFL like Verizon. The NFL enters into the sponsorship contracts which trickle down into clubs. The revenues are shared equally. Brzensiski is asked if they could change the schedule and the answer is no.
Where does post season money come from? It comes from the NFL. McKinney did not receive a pro-bowl money. McKinney was told the reimburse the expenses for the probowl by the NFL.
Brzensiski says Vikings have no discretion in how they test for steroids. The Vikings have no discretion in punishments for steroids.
Brzensiski says that Fox broadcasts Kevin and Pat Williams failing steroid tests. He learned of it through the internet. Brzensiski says he is not the source of the information in the broadcast.
Cross examination begins. Brzenski admits no one from the NFL dictated whether or not he could be hired. Brzenski states that the league does not dicate his salary.
Brzensiski identifies Zigi and Mark Wilf are the owners. Wilfs agree to be bound by the league rules.
On cross Brzensiski suggests the collective bargaining agreement sets forth the negotiated agreements. The rules are not imposed or dictated upon the organizations. The requirements that players follow are products of negotiated agreements.
On Cross the defense begins to establish much more through Brzensiski. The salary cap was policed by the NFL under the CBA. The NFL cannot change the salary cap requirements. The revenue sharing agreement is not imposed on the Vikings by the NFL but is governed by a resolution of member clubs. The NFL commissioner cannot dictate how the member clubs share revenue. Television revenue is club money.
Cross suggests NFL club owners negotiate television deals through a committee. Formulas for revenue sharing are negotiated by league resolution.
Brzensiski says scheduling is delegated to the NFL. National sponsorships are agreed to and approved by an owners committee. Post season money comes from a club fund agreed to by the owners. The amount of money for post-season comes from the collective bargaining agreement.
Brzensiski is asked about the pro-bowl. The pro-bowl is governed by the collective bargaining agreement.
The Brzensiski cross then goes into the issue of retirement. Kevin and Pat Williams retirement benefits are obligations of the Minnesota Vikings.
The defense moves on to the steriod policy.
The steroid policy is part of the collective bargaining agreement.
The following is established during the
Brzensiski cross. Pat and Kevin Williams had an appeal hearing and Wilf attended. Vikings argued that players should not be suspended. Vikings have a better chance of winning if Kevin and Pat Williams are not suspended.
Exhibit 266 becomes the subject of cross-examination. It is a player contract with Kevin Williams. The Vikings decided to sign the contract. Pat Williams had a similar process for the establishment of a contract. Both of them have weight bonuses. Kevin Williams missed a weight bonus. Pat Williams likewise violated his weight bonus. The Vikings made the determination to withhold weight bonuses because they used diuretics.
The plaintiffs try to counter some of what has been brought up on Cross examination. They plaintiffs begin a new line of questioning.
The plaintiffs begin to estabish through Bzensiski that the Vikings need the revenue sharing. The money comes from the NFL negotiated contracts.
The Vikings can be punished for violations. The NFL makes the determination.
Brzensiski has safety and health concerns about people who wear the Vikings uniforms.
Brzensiski says Wilfs went through a background check and had to be approved before they became owners.
Plaintiffs lawyers begin to attack the CBA through Brzensiski.
The CBA does not dictate the chin strap. The CBA does not dictate the television revenues. The CBA does not cover pro-bowl payments.
Brzensiski states the pension fund received matching contributions. Players pensions remain the same if they change a team.
Another cross examination of Brzensiski occurs.
Revenue sharing is dictated by league resolutions by the clubs. The vikings were notified about Star Caps in a memo.
If the Vikings want to relocate they would need owner approval, not NFL league office.
Expansion payments are paid to the clubs.
NFL clubs have to approve Wilf purchase not the league office or the commissioner.
A final question is asked by the plaintiffs to Brzensiski- does franchisee act as a single agent? Objected to.
A ten minute break is taken.
Mr. Dennis Curran is called. According to his testimony, the commissioner approves all player contracts.
Mr. Curran is asked about a 5 year strategic plan for laboratory testing prepared by Dr. Finkle.
Mr. Curran is not aware of anyone at the NFL to comply with state law through a state law survey.
Mr. Curran did not do a search of state laws.
Mr. Curran is confronted by a deposition which contains testimony about the NFL providing a third test.
Mr. Curran is then confronted with another the appendix of another exhibit. The list includes generic and brand names.
Mr. Curran is asked if Star Caps is on the list and he says not by name but by ingredient.
According to Curran, he is not aware that the NFL commissioner ever exercised the personal conduct authority with regard to the disclosure or nondisclosure of Bumetanide in Star Caps.
The witness is dismissed but not released.
A recess is taken until 1pm.
After the recess, the final witness is called.
Joseph Siclair testified about the financial conditions of the NFL. Apparently, the NFL is a nonprofit organization. It has lost its mission statement as required by the IRS. It currently has a stadium loan program that stands in excess of $850 million dollars. He discussed the NFL Credit facility. He also testified extensively about the visiting team share. Article 19 calls for a sharing of gate receipts. They share 34% of gate receipts. The 34% is sent to the 32 teams equally.
The case ended and summation arguments were made. The defense argues that they have exceeded Minnesota statutes and that most of the claims were already dismissed in a prior federal suit.
The plaintiff claims the NFL is not above the law. The plaintiff’s privacy rights were jeopardized and the health and safety of players was compromised by inadequate disclosure.
Interestingly enough, the plaintiff did not specify a dollar amount for their claims.