“I wasn’t going to have an argument with him and there was no point of sitting in the lobby,” Alexander said. “So I left.”
That scene was repeated in New York and Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo, Chicago and Charlotte, as players in ones and twos and threes trickled to NFL parks, only to be politely turned away.
A federal judge’s order Monday lifting the six week-old lockout sowed mostly confusion about whether the sport really had reopened for business, uncertainty that threatened to overshadow the NFL’s premier offseason event: the annual draft that begins Thursday night in New York.
With little guidance from U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, a league that prides itself on order and regimentation found itself with essentially no rules, widely conflicting interpretations of the new status quo and no public plan for what happens next.
Indeed, the players themselves filed legal documents asking Nelson for clarification of the 89-page ruling she issued Monday evening, which awarded them a preliminary injunction and ended the shutdown. The NFL sought a stay of that ruling late Monday night, and Nelson gave the players until Wednesday to reply.
“Our position is there’s no lockout,” James Quinn, an attorney for the players, said in a telephone interview from his office in New York. “In our view, the league year [which coincides with the opening of the free agent market] should start and we should go forward.”
But the league wasn’t ready for that.
“We are going to proceed in an orderly way that is fair to the teams and players and complies with court orders,” Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of public relations, said in a written statement. “Players are being treated with courtesy and respect at club facilities. We do not believe it is appropriate for football activities to take place until there are further rulings from the court.”
Nelson, based in St. Paul, Minn., ruled Monday that the lockout is improper because the players are no longer represented by a union and said the shutdown is causing them irreparable harm. She rejected the NFL’s arguments that federal labor law prohibited her from granting the injunction request and that she should wait for the National Labor Relations Board to complete a separate investigation.
Despite their decisive victory, an attorney for the plaintiffs asked Nelson in a letter Monday to clarify what she meant when she used the phrase the “lockout is enjoined.” In other words, the players wanted to know, what happens next? Under what system should the game commence?