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: Mar 22, 2007
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:03 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

I'm hardly going to miss the NBA.  I'm watching the NFL & the CFL and, soon, will be watching college basketball.  No, I'm not missing the NBA at all.  Go play overseas, fellas....

Since: Sep 15, 2006
Posted on: November 15, 2011 10:40 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Keep the NBA away...

I'm like the fact that the Blackhawks have the United Center to themselves.  Good Ice!

Since: Oct 17, 2009
Posted on: November 15, 2011 10:30 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

i understand what people are saying. But if the nba owners can pay a player 100 million dollars, How much are they making. So if they cutting money, they will be making more

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: November 15, 2011 9:31 am

NBA players blow up gravy train

Let the players take a year off and see just how lucky they are to have an NBA to employ them.  It is the owners who are putting up all of the money here.  All the players do is show up, play, and complain.  Many companies run between 8 and 12 percent labor cost.  Maybe the owners should offer 8 percent next time.  
The excuse that an athlete has a short time to earn money is bogus.  Nobody has a guaranteed job anymore; everybody has a short time to earn money before looking for another job.  Playing a game for a few years shouldn't automatically guarantee money for the rest of a person's life.   They are already given the advantages of celebrity when looking for income opportunities after they can no longer play, and the intelligent ones can always get into coaching.  All they have to do is go back to school, actually go to class, and finish their degrees.

Since: Nov 6, 2006
Posted on: November 15, 2011 9:19 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

The worst part about this is that LeBron James will not get a chance to add another ring to his collection this year.

Since: Jan 6, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 9:08 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

YEAH!!!! No Basketball invading my TV. Between baseball and football I get enough whiney millionaires who cant feed thier kids<br />

Since: Nov 18, 2007
Posted on: November 15, 2011 9:07 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

NBAPA needs to grasp that they're not the NFLPA.

Since: Jan 21, 2010
Posted on: November 15, 2011 9:02 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

What do they think they are going to win by going to court????? It doesn't take rocket science to realize that by rejecting 2% is going to cut it down farther and farther.   I was under the impression that a some of the player reps had some financial intelect but apparently not.   Initially unions were formed to help people in the mass production lines, slaughterhouses ect that were literally getting worked to death.  These clowns don't care in the least about the consession workers, ticket takers ect.  who are going to suffer much more than a 3 million dollar a year player having to cut a percentage of his wage but the way they are thinking if they keep their heads up their butts, that wage can be cut from 3 million to 0!  WAKE UP!

Since: Mar 15, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 8:58 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

You are a complete douchebag.. do you have a daughter? young female cousins? maybe they should "suck me off" how does that sound??? are a class act.....but as a good catholic Notre Dame fan you'd probably prefer his son or male cousin

Since: Dec 1, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 8:39 am

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

I don't care what either side is saying.  A year without the NBA is a great thing for me.  Maybe the players will realize how much money they make for doing something that they can do in any neighborhood in America for nothing. 

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