The NFL counterpart, sort of, to the NBA's Kermit Washington Rudy Tomjanovich case was kept alive by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday. It left Cincinnati Bengal officials with visions of the $3 million-plus jury judgment against the Los Angeles Lakers dancing menacingly in their heads.
The high court, without comment, left intact a federal appeals court ruling that pro football's violent nature should not have been considered in original-trial dismissal of the 1975 damage suit filed by former Denver defensive back Dale Hackbart against the Bengals and their former fullback Charles (Boobie) Clark.
Mike Brown, Paul's lawyer son who is Bengal assistant general manager and legal counsel, predicted that the ruling "will lead to more such lawsuits in various sports and will be harmful to sport. This is an example of courts intruding in areas they truly don't understand."
Hackbart sued Clark, now of the Houston Oilers, for a neck fracture he claims Clark inflicted in a Sept. 16, 1973, Bengal-Bronco game. Hackbart allegedly was struck with "reckless disregard" from behind while Hackbart was kneeling, watching the completion of a play. No game official saw the alleged rule violation (captured on film) and both players finished the game. Hackbart played two more games, in pain, then was cut by Denver and never picked up, ending a 13-year pro career.