NFL trial facts

September 11, 1992

THE ISSUE The NFL's free-agency system, known as Plan B. The system allows each team to retain limited rights to 37 players each season. A protected player is unable to sign with another team without giving his old team the first chance to sign him. If he signs, his new team has to compensate the old team with two first-round draft choices. No restricted players have changed teams under the Plan B system.

THE PLAYERS * Plaintiffs: New York Jets running back Freeman McNeil; San Diego guard Dave Richards; Green Bay quarterback Don Majkowski; New York Giants cornerback Mark Collins; Cleveland cornerback Frank Minnifield; Phoenix safety Tim McDonald; former Giants and Cleveland running back Lee Rouson; and former Detroit and Los Angeles Raiders linebacker Niko Noga.

* The players argued: The Plan B system is illegal under the antitrust laws. They want to be able to negotiate with any team in an open market. They asked for about $4 million in damages.

THE LEAGUE * Defendant: The National Football League.

* The league argued: Plan B and other rules have allowed the league to enjoy prosperity and popularity, and an end to those rules would threaten the competitive balance of professional football.

THE COURT * Judge: U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty, Minneapolis.

* Jury: Eight women.

* The trial: Started June 15 and lasted 36 days. The jury deliberated two days.

THE VERDICT * Liability: NFL liable in all eight players' cases with four awarded monetary compensation.

* Damages: $543,000 (trebled under federal antitrust laws to $1.63 million).

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