NBA's flopping rule could be headed to arbitration

Is Kevin Durant flopping? If so, a rule to fine him is under fire.  (USATSI)
Is Kevin Durant flopping? If so, a rule to fine him is under fire. (USATSI)

During his Board of Governors address in Las Vegas last week, NBA commissioner David Stern said the league's anti-flopping rules were working well and the competition committee recommended no changes to them.

Not everyone agrees. The National Basketball Players Association is seeking an arbitration hearing on the matter after the National Labor Relations Board recently declined to rule on it, and instead recommended that the matter be sent to an arbitrator.

"We are now in the process of scheduling a case with our arbitrator to determine whether the NBA is allowed to unilaterally impose discipline in an area that exceeds the commissioner's authority without the consent of the union," NBPA interim executive director Ron Klempner told CBSSports.com on Tuesday. "It's a subject they need to bargain with us, and we hope that the arbitrator will find that any type of discipline must be collectively bargained."

If ongoing dialogue between the league and the union results in a compromise on the flopping penalties, an arbitration case would be averted.

The NBA announced the new policy imposing warnings and fines on players found guilty of flopping -- feigning or exaggerating contact to trick the officials into calling fouls -- in October 2012. At the time, then-executive director Billy Hunter announced his intention to file an unfair labor practices charge with the NLRB on the union's behalf. Hunter argued that neither the NBA nor commissioner David Stern had the authority to unilaterally impose a disciplinary policy without the consent of the players' union.

Hunter has since been ousted as the union's executive director in the wake of findings that he failed to properly manage conflicts of interest and put his own self-interests ahead of the union's. While the NBPA searches for a permanent replacement, Hunter has sued the union and its president, Derek Fisher, alleging defamation and breach of contract. Earlier this month, the NBPA, Fisher, and his assistant, Jamie Wior -- also a defendant in Hunter's lawsuit -- filed a motion to dismiss the case. Hunter is seeking, at minimum, the $10.5 million he was owed on his contract at the time of his dismissal. No trial date has been set.

When the league imposed the new flopping penalties, NBA spokesman Tim Frank said: "Our adoption of an anti-flopping rule is fully consistent with our rights and obligations under the collective bargaining agreement and the law."

The policy calls for first-time floppers to receive warnings. Repeat offenders are fined $5,000 for the second offense, $10,000 for the third, $15,000 for the fourth and $30,000 for the fifth. Beyond that, players are subject to additional fines or suspensions.

During the first season under the new rules, nineteen players received flopping warnings and five of those were fined $5,000 each for second offenses: Omer Asik, J.J. Barea, Reggie Evans, Kevin Martin and Gerald Wallace. There were no warnings for flopping during the playoffs, and eight players were fined for one violation each: Tony Allen, Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Jeff Pendergraph, J.R. Smith, Lance Stephenson, David West and Fisher, the union president.

 
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