By Matt Moore and Ben Golliver.
The NBA today announced it is filing suit against the NBPA for "unfair labor practices" with the National Labor Relations Board, countering the same move from the NBPA last month, and a federal suit to pre-emptively cut off any potential civil actions pertaining to antitrust law violations.
From the NBA's release:
NBA FILES UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE CHARGE AND FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST NBPAThe Associated Press reports that news of the legal moves elicited reactions from both sides on Tuesday.
NEW YORK, August 2, 2011 – The NBA filed two claims today against the National Basketball Players Association: an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board, and a lawsuit in federal district court in New York. The unfair labor practice charge asserts that the Players Association has failed to bargain in good faith by virtue of its unlawful threats to commence a sham “decertification” and an antitrust lawsuit challenging the NBA’s lockout. The federal lawsuit seeks to establish, among other things, that the NBA's lockout does not violate federal antitrust laws and that if the Players Association's “decertification” were found to be lawful, all existing player contracts would become void and unenforceable.
“These claims were filed in an effort to eliminate the use of impermissible pressure tactics by the union which are impeding the parties’ ability to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Adam Silver. “For the parties to reach agreement on a new CBA, the union must commit to the collective bargaining process fully and in good faith.”
Players' attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who also represented the NFL players, was named in the NBA's lawsuit for his use of what the league called an "impermissible pressure tactic" that has had a "direct, immediate and harmful" effect on CBA talks.Click here to read Hunter's full statement.
"For the parties to reach agreement on a new CBA, the union must commit to the collective bargaining process fully and in good faith," Adam Silver, the NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, said in a statement released by the league.
Kessler, said the players are frustrated because they believe it's the owners whose negotiating efforts have been in bad faith. "The NBA Players Association has made no decision to decertify. They talk about the fact that this is something the players have considered for 30 years, and that's true. And they haven't done it for 30 years," Kessler said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "So there's no decision made. There may be no decision made. We view this as an example of their bad-faith bargaining. They don't want to be at the table."
NBAPA Executive Director Billy Hunter, in a statement released by the union, said the players will seek to dismiss the lawsuit, which he called "totally without merit." Said Hunter: "We urge the NBA to engage with us at the bargaining table and to use more productively the short time we have left before the 2011-12 season is seriously jeopardized."
You may remember these moves from "NFL Lockout 2011" and "What The League Said It Didn't Want To Do." This is essentially a pre-emptive strike to cut off the union's legal maneuverability at the knees. Whether this indicates that the NBPA threatened decertification in Monday's meeting after reports of an agent mutiny pushing for legal moves last week is unclear. What is clear is that the NBA is not kidding around about winning this lockout using any and all available means. For months, the league and the union have both said they wanted to avoid taking this dispute into the courts because of how bitter and drawn out it can become. Then in a month and a day, we now have three different legal charges from the two sides including a federal lawsuit.
Don't say Ken Berger of CBSSports.com didn't warn you when he predicted this precise scenario last week. The NFL used the exact same description of the decertification approach in their legal battles, calling the NFLPA's decertification a "sham." Stern's comments after Monday's bargaining session seem like premonition at this point. Ken Berger notes that this is as much about setting the venue as the federal court as it is about anything else. It's a move by the NBA to get the ball in the court they want it, so to speak.
We've hit a new level and all-out legal warfare is now in play.