Blog Entry

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Posted on: November 14, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 8:54 pm
NEW YORK -- Unable to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the NBA, the union representing the players dissolved Monday and paved the way for a potentially lengthy and ugly antitrust lawsuit to be filed within days.

With a unanimous show-of-hands vote from as many as 50 players, the union sent a disclaimer of interest letter to commissioner David Stern, which effectively ended the National Basketball Players Association's role as the collective bargaining agent for the players. Outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler and star attorney David Boies -- whom the players met for the first time Monday -- will lead the legal team that will sue the NBA alleging antitrust violations.

"We've negotiated in good faith for over two years," said Billy Hunter, who now becomes executive director of the National Basketball Players Trade Association -- no longer the leader of the players' union. "The players just felt that they've given enough."

Stern, speaking live on league broadcast partner ESPN, called the players' tactic "a charade" and characterized it as a "magical trick" that ultimately will fail.

"What they've done is destroyed incredible value that would've gone to the union membership," Stern said. "... We were very close, and they decided to blow it up."

Stern made no pronouncements about further cancellation of games, but added, "The calendar takes care of that." Although the disclaimer action initiated by union executive director Billy Hunter is more expeditious than a decertification vote initiated by the players, the legal fight that will ensue certainly imperils the 2011-12 season.

"Obviously, Mr. Kessler got his way," Stern said, "and we're about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA."

During a meeting attended by the players' executive committee, player reps from all 30 teams and about 20 more players -- including superstar Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Carlos Boozer, Rajon Rondo and Elton Brand -- union officials presented and explained details of the league's most recent offer. It had been characterized as the final revised proposal the league intended to offer, and if the players didn't accept it, Stern's negotiating position would revert to a harsher offer -- including player salaries being derived from a 47 percent share of revenues, a hard team salary cap and rollbacks of existing contracts.

The deal on the table for the players Monday included a 50-50 split of revenues -- a 12 percent reduction from their previous share of 57 percent -- and a long list of system and spending restrictions. Hunter said the meeting gained momentum and changed in tone once players raised the option of decertification. They ultimately chose the more expeditious option of a disclaimer, with Hunter saying a summary judgment in the antitrust case could possibly be reached in 60 days -- about the length of time it would've taken the National Labor Relations Board to authorize an election through a player-initiated decertification. 

About 200 players already had signed decertification petitions, displeased with the league's negotiating tactics and the concessions made by the union. Among these were 15 players in the meeting Monday, Hunter said.

The former union executive director said he has no intentions of withdrawing the NBPA's unfair-labor practices charge with the NLRB, although it is not clear how the agency will view it now that the union has been dissolved.

While the route the union chose is quicker than decertification, it is no silver bullet for the NBA players to win what are known as "treble damages" -- three times lost earnings resulting from the lockout -- or to eventually get a better deal. For starters, there will be a significant legal fight over where the union is allowed to file its antitrust case. Presumably, the players would prefer to file it in an employee-friendly district in California, under the auspices of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. For this reason, the NBA in August filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, which falls in the employer-friendly 2nd Circuit. 

Once that is resolved, the league will argue that the players' disclaimer is a "sham" -- in other words, a tactic designed to gain negotiating leverage rather than a serious union dissolution. The NFL Players Association tried the same tactic, and started much earlier in the process -- principally because it had no other choice due to a litigated deadline to decertify or disclaim or lose the option going forward.

The NFLPA never got an ultimate ruling on whether the lockout or disclaimer were legal, but instead got a narrow ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the federal district court did not have the authority to lift the lockout.

"I felt the combination of Boies and Kessler, from my perspective, would be an unbeatable team," Hunter said. "... We feel extremely confident that we can prevail in this matter. That’s the opinion of both lawyers."

In a statement released by the league office after his live TV interview, Stern said, "The 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy," and immediately began laying the groundwork for what could be the mother of all antitrust lawsuits. Stern alluded to a February 2010 bargaining session in which union attorney Kessler threatened that the players would "abandon the collective bargaining process and start an antitrust lawsuit against our teams if they did not get a bargaining resolution that was acceptable to them."

"The NBA has negotiated in good faith throughout the collective bargaining process but -- because our revised bargaining proposal was not to its liking -- the union has decided to make good on Mr. Kessler's threat."

Since: Sep 23, 2008
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:42 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Last I heard MCdonalds is not marketing there EMPLOYEES to the public but the burgers the employees are selling . 

The NBA owners led by David Stern has spent almost 30 years marketing and shoving individual players down our throat over the game and over team play .  

Sorry but this is more akin to Mcdonalds refusing to sell burgers because the beef industry wont give them some discount because they lost money  on products with bad business decisions like Mcpizza ,Arch deluxe,MCDLT ,Mcpasta,McHotdog etc . 

The owners created this mess not the players and they should be the ones trying to come to a reasonable agreement because they have a valuable commodity . 

Since: Sep 15, 2007
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:41 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

goredsbrian, you say who cares and yet you care enough to take your time in posting your nonsense in the NBA thread; so to answer your question, many care.


NBA is not in the level of NHL. See the numbers of people taking time off to watch the games whether live or from home. Im sure you've gone to a bar/pub and basketball is what is being played on tv and people actually watching it.

I cant determine whether you are stupid or ignorant but please stop writing incoherent statements.

Since: Nov 14, 2011
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:40 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

They are all a bunch of millionaires fighting for more money.

Since: Nov 14, 2011
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:37 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Heres my proposal:
Someday they will agree and there will be Bk again, but what about the fans?
If i had the reach, i would make a fan lockout.


They need us, our money, our consuption.

Screw them! 

Since: Sep 5, 2007
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:35 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court this will not be an original comment...but...who cares? I think the NBA is about to find out that no one really cares about their league. They are right up there with the NHL in leagues that could disappear and very few would notice. The NFL, MLB, college football, college basketball, two weeks of college baseball (Omaha), two weeks of Little League baseball (Williamsport), golf (when Tiger is winning or Phil is choking), tennis (ok, maybe not tennis) all would be missed. So disappear NBA and see if it matters.

Since: Oct 29, 2007
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:32 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

I guess I don't understand what this move by the players accomplishes, if anything.  Even if the long court fight yields fruit for the players, owners will declare bankruptcy rather than pay.  Moreover, who is going to be paying those very impressive lawyers hourly rates?  Are they doing it pro bono?  I don't think so.  Given the chaos, will each player chip in?  Does the disbanded union have the right to transfer funds to them?  What is a trade association anyway?  Obviously, this process has moved way beyond fan understanding which means, of course, beyond recapture.

Since: Aug 1, 2007
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:31 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

I guess my XBOX NBA 2012 will feature a black screen., What a waste of $60. Still more fun than watching the actual games tho'

Since: Mar 15, 2008
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:30 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

a lot of the problem is these players actually listen to the self promoting ass kissing hype on ESPN and think it's real.   

i'm afraid the joke is going be on them because one day they'll wake up and realize they cancelled a season and no one missed it.

Since: Mar 23, 2009
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:29 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

"My employer would show me the door, and probably in more unpleasant terms"

Of course and at that point what would you do?  Go get another job at another company.  Which of course is NOT an option for the players because the NBA is a monopoly.  Which is also why your argument that the "owners should set the pay" is pointless. 

Normally we let the marketplace set the payscale based on the employees talent when there is no market place because it's monopoly then the wage scale has to be set some other way.

"But who decided to give these players a chance to make millions anyway?"

You did of course.  If you and millions of others just like you didn't watch the games they wouldn't get paid squat.  But because they are uniquely talented atheletes we pay to watch them and in turn the owners pay them millions of dollars. 

"..Given that NBA salaries have doubled in the the last seven years, this is hardly a major concession.."

It's all relative of course.  For example the 2002-2008 TV contract was for 2.2 billion for 6 years.  It was extended until 2016 at 930 million a year.   So the owners TV revenue has more than doubled over that period.  And that's just the TV revenue, that doesn't count local broadcasting rights, ticket sales, merchendice, etc.  

As an example take the Heat, poster child for bad contracts according to everyone of late.  Guy that owns them is worth 4.1 billion.  He bought the franchise in 1988 for 33 million. Right now it's worth 425 million.  A nice 11% annual increase - you have any investment that's returned that over the last 23 years?  

I guess my point is that anytime one side is giving back money it is a major concesion especially when the group that is crying poverty is anything but poor.  

Since: Oct 18, 2011
Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:28 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

That wasn't my point. My point was the majority of the negativity regarding the lockout has been put on the shoulders of the players...almost like the owners have no culpability.

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