MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The NFL will open its doors for business starting Friday morning, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello via profootballtalk.com. Still, the league year won’t open until a later date, meaning no trading of players is expected during Thursday night’s draft.
Late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson denied the NFL’s request for a stay of her decision ordering the league to open for business.
This left the league and the NFL players trying to figure out exactly what is going on. The league quickly filed a motion with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to obtain a stay from that court, but until then, the league has to open for business or be held in contempt of court.
“It is our view that the NFL and the clubs will be in contempt of court if they do not comply with the order,” a memo from players’ attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and James Quinn said.
The NFL hasn’t advised teams what to do, but the league is expected to announce how teams should proceed at some point on Thursday.
The league had asked the judge to prevent the opening of business because it could open the league up to antitrust lawsuits which could have triple the damages. Judge Nelson dismissed this notion.
“The world of ‘chaos’ the NFL claims it has been thrust into — essentially the ‘free-market’ system this nation otherwise willfully operates under — is not compelled by this court’s order,” Nelson wrote.
The NFL is afraid that if free agency and the league year begin, it could cause “utter chaos” trying to sort out player transactions, especially if a stay is later granted by the appeals court.
The NFL set a timeline that would push the legal fight deep into June, just weeks before training camps are set to open across the league.
Veteran players will be happy to miss training camp, but younger and fringe players need the camps to make the team or make themselves visible to other franchises.
In addition, if the NFL doesn’t open for business today, then only the players selected in the draft will go to their respective team. All of the usual free agent signings immediately after the draft will not happen if the league year hasn’t started.
Judge Nelson said the NFL needs to “make a decision about how to proceed and accept the consequences of that choice.”
In saying the NFL could go about its business, Judge Nelson said that the league had already gone forward with the draft and announced the 2011 schedule, in addition to tendering restricted free agents immediately before the lockout began.