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: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 8:03 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court


There are twice as many players on a baseball roster. 
Fair assessment.

Then what is the excuse for the NFL? 

Isn't there more guys on an NFL squad, then an MLB roster? Then why are MLB rosters so out of wack compared to the NFL? Especially with the NFL having larger attendance numbers.

In baseball 12 teams spent over a 100 million per year, You have 8 teams between 70 and 90 million...Then the rest of league under 70 million. Not much parity there. Yankees spend 200 million, Kansas City is at thirty six million... and your going to tell me the NBA is the only broken system?

That is my whole point, the NBA isn't the only broken business model. In  MLB small market teams basically groom talent to lose it to teams who outspend them 5 times over, such is the case when looking at the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox as compared too the Rays, Royals,Pirates,Padres..just to name a few. Atleast with the NBA, teams have the ability to match a contract, and you can't just offer a guy thirty million a year and lose him, like say the Mariners lost A Rod.

Since: Sep 15, 2006
Posted on: November 15, 2011 6:47 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court


There are twice as many players on a baseball roster. 

Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 6:04 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Stupid laptop keyboard took away part of my sentence.. I meant to say, it's a sad state of affairs when banks, loan companies and now sports leagues are crying foul over there own wrong doing.

Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 6:02 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Hey Finkletoes, far as I am concerned, you are 100% right!Cancel the season, Cancel the league for that matter, let them all get houirly jobs and find out yhow it is to work for a living.
Las time I checked, the team with the highest payroll in the NBA was still under a 100 million...your a Yankees fan, and your going to talk about players and how it feels to get real jobs? Really? Isn't the Yankees payroll closer to 200 million??? Maybe Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter should go work at McDonalds to find out in your words "yhow it is to work for a living".

I appreciate seeing some people debating the topic at hand instead of making racist and biased comments. I never seen anything so bad across the web then here on CBS Sports.  

I see more people being bitter at there own existence then anything, your mad that someone has some talent and is making a really good salary for say 10 - 12 years that will have to do them there whole lives. Like i said before, they didn't invent the game..they didn't pull out a gun and force the owners to pay them what they do. If the owners were so hardline, why they don't get together behind closed doors and decide they will only pay out X amount of dollars. but guess what? It would never happen because there all in competition with one another. It's a sad state of affairs when banks, loan companies and now sports leagues.

I know personally, now that College ball has kicked off, I really don't care about the NBA. If it came back I would watch it for sure, but I don't miss it anymore. I find myself getting back into the NHL, watching the CFL, NFL, College basketball. I feel for the employees at the arenas, but then again there the ones who chose to work in a part time industry, you would have more job stability working at a fast food joint, they don't lock each other out. I don't see any end to this in sight, I would have to say R.I.P. to the NBA. At least for 2011-2012.

Since: Dec 15, 2010
Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:02 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Hey Finkletoes, far as I am concerned, you are 100% right!Cancel the season, Cancel the league for that matter, let them all get houirly jobs and find out yhow it is to work for a living.

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:58 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Like the old addage...Fools and their money are soon parted.  The players association was so greedy they passed up deals that could have ended it.  The owners kept reduce the cut to the players.  Now everyone is screwed six ways from Sunday.  Cancel the season and start from scratch.  Both sides have pissed off the fans to the point no one cares if they come back to play or not this season.

Since: Aug 30, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:37 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

I think that both sides underestimate the public backlash they are creating.  The NBA is only marginally popular among the average sports fan, particularly outside of any NBA city, but is popular enough that hard core fans may treat a labor situation very much like they treated baseball during the 90s work stoppage.  It took baseball years to recover for 2 reasons:  1 - The popularity of baseball at the time was waning as is the current popularity of the NBA and 2 - Many sports fans didn't miss the fact they were gone.  With the NBA, particularly give the popularity of the NFL and the college basketball, only hardcore fans are going to miss the regular season games.  Once you create an atmosphere of no one cares, ask the NHL, it is hard to get it back.  Maybe the NBA upon return may need to go to Versus for a National television contract.

Since: Mar 23, 2009
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:09 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

"The difference with Microsoft is that they created an unfair barrier for competitors to enter the market, including having their operating systems pre-installed in most windows based computers.  The NBA is a bit different in that the league has not set a barrier for competition, anyone can start another league.  A great example of a failed attempt was the XFL trying to compete with the NFL."

Sure, the NBA has no advantage in already have the rights to the stadiums, parking lots, TV rights, etc.   Anyone can come in and build a new stadium for a billion dollars, spend a few hundred million more for parking space...  no barrier are all.  I'm sure the current cities that have NBA franchises would jump at the chance to under write that with part ownership of the stadiums, tax credits, land give aways etc.  

"Although owner's in the NBA cannot get together and collectively state they are imposing a limit to salaries (collusion), they can negotiate certain terms in a collective bargaining agreement..."

Yes exactly what I was saying.

"...or have an unwritten/spoken agreement amongst themselves that caps salaries"    

No that we be illegal and that's why they need a union.

"you may be able to negotiate higher pay elsewhere, but at a certain point you will hit the ceiling."

Yes in a normal marketplace at somepoint the market decides they're not going to pay you anymore money. Not because there's some hard cap in place but because the value of your services are no longer worth anymore money.  &nbs
p;That is what doesn't happen in sports.  

"Look at the state of our economy, in every industry across the board employees are taking less money to do more work; why should the NBA be any different.  You have to shift your demands to fit into the current business environment.  The deal is not forever, and should the economy change by the time the next negotiation comes up, then revisit more pay and system changes for the players"
Not sure how the "system" changes fit into the argument.  The players did give up a large chunk of pay it's the system changes that they balked at which really had nothing to do with money. Instead it had to do with their freedom to move from team to team and the limits on individual teams to go over the hard cap.  In otherwords it's what the owners describe as competitive balance.  How does any of that have to do with the current economy?  Nothing of course.

And yes I'm ignoring the whole argument that the owners are actually loosing massive amounts of money which on the whole is a bunch of BS.  They're using the current economy as a means to squeeze their labor costs.   







Since: Jan 7, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:48 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

Many good points.I don't particularly care how this winds up. I would jsut as soon watch college basketball. I do find fault in the logic that perhaps they should split the difference and settle on 52%... If that were the standard method of resolving the monetary piece, then the owners should have lowballed initially and offered 35% so they could split the difference at 46%. Or the players should have asked for 75%. S'all greed however you slice it. You could give the players 80% of the revenue and 75% will still be bankrupt within 5 years of leaving the game. (Cue Patrick Ewing, "Sure we make a lot... but we SPEND alot.) The owners will be fine however this comes out. They have the business sense (save the McCourt's of the world) to adjust spending as necessary to turn at least a moderate profit. Of course the next CBA will have the players screaming for minimum payrolls... 

Since: Mar 23, 2009
Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:43 pm

NBA players blow up union, take fight to court

"wrong again....the NBA has been marketed on a small handful of players... further lessoning the leverage of the union as a whole"

I guess I'm the stupid one today... explain to me how the fact that the NBA has concentrated all their marketing on a few players has lessened the players leverage over the NBA brand?  Isn't the union representing the all the players even the small minority that you veiw as the "important" ones?

"still wrong....the NBA has already lost the interest of fans in all but a few markets.... "

You're just ignoring the fact that someone thinks enough of the fans interest in the game to pay almost a billion dollars a year for the TV rights.    &nbs

"The only hope of growing the brand is to beat the players and change the NBA"

Beat the players, would you define what "winning" means in this instance?  think the owners offer is going to substantially change anything about the league?  Besides how much money the owners get to pocket and giving the players less control over where they play what changes does it contain that are going to make it so much better?  You're spouting a lot of BS. 


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