The Rockets have lost round one in their bizarre legal battle against members of the Houston minority communities.
State District Judge John Coselli issued the 15-day, temporary restraining order after about two hours in his chambers with lawyers representing the Houston Area Urban League and the Rockets. He also scheduled a temporary injunction hearing on May 15.
"I'm still concerned that the (Leslie) Alexander team does not fully understand that ... full participation meant in every aspect of the operations and the profit of the arena," said Sylvia Brooks, Urban League president and chief executive officer.
Black and Hispanic leaders want minority participation in all aspects of arena operations. The Rockets say profit-sharing isn't part of the agreement, and it plans to meet or exceed 30 percent minority participation goals in the operation phase as it did in the design and construction of the arena.
"I think the (temporary injunction) hearing will bring out the truth," said former City Attorney Benjamin L. Hall, an Urban League lawyer. "We think there is a very real and serious threat to minority participation in the arena."
Hall said the order prevents the team from signing any more operations contracts until a hearing later this month.
Rockets lawyer Michael Goldberg disagreed, saying the order is limited to new concessions contracts.
"The Rockets are absolutely free to let all contracts on the operations with one minor exception, and that is the food concessions," he said.
He said the team can sign concessions contracts as long as they are presented to the judge.
The judge did not give any details on what aspect of arena operations will be affected by the court order. No copies of the order were available late Tuesday.
"I granted a TRO on very narrow grounds," Coselli said.
Arena operations include food and beverage concessions, advertising, suite rentals, security and ticket sales.
UPDATE: This is what I'm talking about:
A coalition of black and Hispanic organizations today threatened to boycott the Houston Rockets if owner Leslie Alexander does not live up to the spirit of a written agreement over minority contracting at the new arena.
The groups have filed a lawsuit demanding that Alexander keep a promise for 30 percent of the contracts in the design, construction and long-term operations at the new arena.
"If we have to strike an economic blow to get economic parity we will strike that blow. We are here for the long haul," said the Rev. William Lawson of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and a member of the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinty.
The coalition includes the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Houston Area Urban League, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the NAACP Houston chapter.