Ex-player Joe Caldwell's law suit against the defunct American Basketball Association may not be revived under a ruling issued Monday by the Supreme Court.
Caldwell had accused the ABA of conspiring to keep him out of the league and sought to pursue an antitrust lawsuit because the league's actions were not covered by the players' union contract.
The court dismissed the argument without comment.
Caldwell was president of the ABA Players' Association when he played for the Spirits of St. Louis during the early 1970s.
He was suspended from the team in December 1974 after team officials accused him of helping another player temporarily walk out as a contract negotiating tactic.
At first, Caldwell appealed his suspension to the league commissioner, but then filed an antitrust lawsuit against the ABA, the Spirits and the team's owners, accusing them of conspiring to keep him from playing basketball again.
Caldwell's contract expired in October 1975, and the league ceased operations the following year when four ABA teams were absorbed by the established NBA.
Caldwell's lawsuit was placed on hold for 18 years while he was in bankruptcy proceedings. In 1993, a federal judge in New York City ruled for the team and ABA, concluding that Caldwell's age and physical problems kept him from being hired by another team during the mid-1970s.
Attorneys for the ABA and the St. Louis team said the contract provided a grievance procedure under which players could challenge suspensions. Caldwell should have pursued his claim under federal labor law, they said.