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 3, 2009
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:40 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Looks like Seattle got out of the NBA right on time.

Since: Nov 14, 2011
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:38 pm


I'm sure a lot of people have said this already, but I can't help but feel that everyone should be thoroughly disgusted by this whole situation. NBA players are complaining about unfair labor conditions. Are they serious? Their labor conditions are getting paid on average more than enough to be put in the top 1% income bracket for playing a game with a ball. Let's be real. They're grown men playing a game. With a ball. In shorts. In a gym. THESE are the labor conditions they're calling egregious.

How can any self respecting person be sympathetic? Most people are working 40-50 hours a week at physically and/or emotionally taxing jobs they hate, getting paid $25,000 a year, just to provide for themselves and their families. I love follwing the NBA, but feel let down with this abhorrent spectacle of greed and childishness. It's SO disrespectful that NBA players don't recognize the exorbitant comparative privelige their situation has afforded them.

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:33 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

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.  

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.   Just because the players don't want the risks involved with starting their own league isn't the NBA's fault.  The players have every right to invest their own cash, put their properties and possessions up as collateral and secure financing from investors to start their own league.  But they won't.... because as I said, there are a lot of risks and they like how they have it now.  Guaranteed contracts regardless of whether or not their employer profits is a lot more desirable then any other option they have.  They can also play overseas.... yeah, on average they'll make a fraction of what they make in the NBA but hey, it's an option..... take it and run with it.

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?

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.  They own Carnival Cruise lines, one of the biggest companies in the world in that industry and about 10 other companies that fall under the cruise brand.     The Heat might be worth 425 million in Forbes opinion but that's only on paper, good luck getting 425 million dollars in this market for a team who's operating income was in the negative 2 of the last 3 years, and basically zero overall the last 3.


Since: Mar 15, 2008
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:29 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

or for the racists who frequent this blog,
does that mean all black people who dont like Hockey or Nascar are racists too?  yep, i think it does.

Since: Mar 15, 2008
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:19 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

To all those of you posting who say you could care less about the NBA...if you could care less about the labor dispute and the league and would rather watch college hoops, or for the racists who frequent this blog, who talk about a league of "thugs"....why do you even bother to comment

1) it's interesting wactching these primadonnas self destruct.

2) it's fun offending silly little people like you.

3) its a drinking game ..we all get to take a shot everytime a self righteous 'Bryant Gumbal' like yourself calls anyone who mocks the NBA a racist.   

Since: Jan 7, 2007
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:19 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

u r right no more games 4 me in fact my fantasy will dissolve for good

Since: Nov 27, 2006
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:18 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

give us our money!

Brats.  I won't miss the NBA at all if it is a no-go this year.  Screw em.   If I wanted NBA basketball I'll watch reruns of the NBA slam dunk contests, thats all this league is, anyway.

Since: May 19, 2010
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:17 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

So "Thugs" is a racist term?  I disagree it is a game for "thugs", I think in the truest sense of the word thug, that would belong to baseball.  I believe they have the highest percentage of "thugs".  I don't like basketball, for the same reason most people of non-white skin color don't like NASCAR, Country Music, Rock Music, Hockey, and even Baseball, it's hard for me to realate too.  Basketball has a hip hop culture, nothing wrong with that, but I don't like the hip hop culture.  Don't get me wrong I will watch the C's from time to time and during the playoffs, but the first half of the season is meaningless to me, it's very very boring.  While hockey has the same problem of "too many" games, it is at least an exciting game to watch.  Hitting, fighting, and the on the edge of your seat close game nearly every night.  Oh and the officiating in basketball is so slanted towards the stars and is just horrible to begin with it makes the game very frustrating.

Since: Mar 15, 2008
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:11 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

My company has season tickets to the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, and various Georgia and Georgia Tech football and basketball games that we give to clients and employees to use.

 The truth is everyone wants the Falcons, Braves, and college tickets. It is no exageration that we often cant give away the NBA Hawks tickets for free. We literally had more requests for our tickets to the minor league hockey team 30 miles north of town in Gwinnett than we did for the Hawks.

sorry fanboys...but thats the truth

Since: May 19, 2010
Posted on: November 14, 2011 9:06 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

I love it, the NBA is the worst sport possible.  It's the one sport where the playing surface has gotten too small for the competition, it is quite boring.  I wouldn't miss basketball for a minute if it never came back.  I do feel bad for the vendors, ticket takers, etc.

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