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: Feb 25, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 12:32 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Its funny when u read about the NBA now, like most said this is more entertaining then the season. I think if they do ever get this lockout finshed before May i would like to see the league have a 10 game season, and from there have all the teams be ranked like college. Then have all 32 or whatever play a tournament like the NCAA. That might help the league after this BS. Another thing i find funny is the college players who came out early looking for a huge payday. Beat they regret that decision, coulda stayed in school and played a game your supposed to love but instead your sitting home playing video games 

Since: Mar 23, 2009
Posted on: November 15, 2011 12:22 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

You are so wrong it's disgusting. The NBA isn't stopping the players from forming their own league, not at all. Just because the players don't have the brains or cash to do so doesn't make it a monopoly

Clearly you’re too stupid to get this so let me give you an analogy.   Microsoft wasn’t preventing anyone from creating a new computer operating system but they still got tagged as a monopoly because they had a dominant market position, little viable competition, and there was a high barrier to entry into their marketplace.

The NBA is in even a worse position because unlike Microsoft the NBA is a collection of individual businesses that are in collusion to limit where players work, how much their paid, etc.    The courts have weighed in on the issue several times and yes the sports leagues are monopolies.  That’s why the owners can’t arbitrarily set salaries and work regulations.

The guy that owns them goes by the name of Micky Arison. None of that 4.1 billion dollars is because of the Miami heat, his family made a fortune in the vacation business.”

You’re arguing my point for me great.

The Heat might be worth 425 million in Forbes opinion but that's only on paper …

Yes that’s how return on the increased value of a capital investment works glad you’ve got the concept.  It’ll help you when buy stock in some company.  Good lucking finding one that gives you a return 11% per year across 23 years, not many people can.

Since: Sep 30, 2011
Posted on: November 15, 2011 12:21 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Of course they do not talk about the owner's rejecting the player offers....they are irrelevent.  If you need proof, when you go in for your next revew at work, make them an offer on reduced working hours, greater pay, more vacation time and a guaranteed contract for the next 5 years.........see how hard they laugh and how long it takes for them to fire you.

Since: Sep 30, 2011
Posted on: November 15, 2011 12:19 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

I heard on ESPN radio that the fight is not about the dollars anymore.....the players were willing to accept the 50/50 revenue split.  The issues, according to the report I heard, are system issues related to free agency, mid-level exceptions and salary caps.  I for one would be thrilled if the money part was resolved as I do not care about that aspect, the players are overcompensated as it is.

As for system issues, I might be able to get on board with the players.  If players want to move around to other teams, so be it.....a hard cap and mid-level exception rule changes would make too much player movement impossible, thus preventing the free for all owner's are concerned with.

Breaking up the union would be a great move if it was intended to really break it up, but it's not.  The union has a self serving interest, masked in making working conditions better for players.  It must be difficult to have travel on private jets and stay in 5 star hotels; add in not having to even move your own luggage at any do they survive?  I travel for work, it is coach seats, packed flights, carry my own bags and stay in a 3 star hotel.

For me, whether it is money or system, the players are making a bad move here.

Since: Sep 22, 2010
Posted on: November 15, 2011 12:17 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

The owners want to players to take reduced pay for their first five years in the league. Most players barely make it to 5 years. The owners are being ridiculous. Fat cats getting fatter. I love this, more fun than basketball. The media is so biased against the players. They always say the players reject the owners it not also true the owners have rejected the players offers. I say the 15 best players in the league should go the fifteen best baketball cities in the country and each set up a team and just like in playground randomly select who goes first and pick from the players already in the league. At least for the first year each player gets a percentage of league profits (and there will be profits because the current owners do everything in their power to hide profits) base on their selection position. They league could be owned by the players themselfs.

Since: Sep 2, 2007
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:54 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

HAHA...what he was trying to say is..."not 1, not 2 not 3, not 4, not 5"....NOT ANY!!!! key word...NOT!!

Since: Sep 2, 2007
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:52 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Dear NBAPA and owners.....take your time...NO ONE CARES

Since: Mar 23, 2009
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:40 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

90% players have no other skills

It's no different than any other sport.  And the leverage they have is the same as any other entertainer - pepople pay to watch them and pay more to watch them than lesser talented people.

"the truth is very few people care about the NBA, and most think the product is poor...... and probably even more are happy about's actually more entertaining than the games...seriously it is"     

I'm not a big fan either but clearly you're wrong - no one pays almost a billion dollars a year to put games in TV that no one watches.   

Since: Dec 28, 2006
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:28 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

My God the crime rate in most cities is gonna go through the roof!

Since: Jan 10, 2010
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:10 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

the players are lead blindly by this billy hunter fraud. leme say it again BILLY HUNTER is the problem! these idiot NBA players follow hunter like some blind sheep! hunter realizes when the lock-out is over, then he will loose all his face time on TV. this bafoon has been working on getting the players a new deal for over 2 years and has nothing to show for it! derek fischer needs to shove this hunter outa the way and take the deal. REMOVE HUNTER AND A DEAL WILL GET DONE! i honestly blamed david stern alot in the beginning, but now i feel sorry for stern having to deal w/ this impossible fool hunter. the players need to wake up and get back to making millions of dollars and playing basketball and not let this fool hunter destroy your workplace single handly.

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