Blog Entry

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

Posted on: November 15, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 11:45 pm
 
NEW YORK -- NBA players sued the league alleging antitrust violations Tuesday, in part using commissioner David Stern's own words against him in making their case that the lockout is illegal.

With two antitrust actions -- one in California naming superstars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant among five plaintiffs, and another in Minnesota naming four plaintiffs -- the players are seeking summary judgment and treble damages totaling three times the players' lost wages due to what lead attorney David Boies referred to as an illegal group boycott.

"There's one reason and one reason only that the season is in jeopardy," Boies told reporters at the Harlem headquarters of the former players' union, which was dissolved Monday and reformed as a trade association to pave the way for the lawsuits. "And that is because the owners have locked out the players and have maintained that lockout for several months. ... The players are willing to start playing tomorrow if (the owners) end the boycott."

The California case, filed Tuesday night in the Northern District, named plaintiffs who represent a wide array of players: Anthony, Durant and Chauncey Billups (high-paid stars); Leon Powe (a mid-level veteran); and Kawhi Leonard (a rookie). The plaintiffs in a similar case filed in Minnesota are Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Williams.

Boies said there could be other lawsuits, and at some point, they could be combined.

It is possible, Boies said, that the players could get a summary judgment before the NBA cancels the entire season -- essentially a two-month timeframe. By that point, with the clock starting on potential damages Tuesday -- which was supposed to have been the first pay day of the season for the majority of players -- treble damages could amount to $2.4 billion.

"We would hope that it's not necessary to go to trial and get huge damages to bring them to a point where they are prepared to abide by the law," Boies said.

A statement released by the league office Tuesday night, spokesman Tim Frank said: "We haven't seen Mr. Boies' complaint yet, but it's a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate. They warned us from the early days of these negotiations that they would sue us if we didn't satisfy them at the bargaining table, and they appear to have followed through on their threats."

Earlier, Boies seemed to have anticipated this response, noting that the NBA's lawsuit in the Southern District of New York -- in which the league sought a declaratory judgment pre-emptively shooting down an eventual dissolution of the union -- came first.

"The litigation was started by the owners," Boies said. "... This case was started months ago when the NBA brought it there."

The crux of the players' argument is that, absent a union relationship to shield them from antitrust law, the 30 NBA owners are engaging in a group boycott that eliminates a market and competition for players' services and are in breach of contract and violation of antitrust law. The players are seeking to be compensated for three times their lost wages as permitted by law, plus legal fees and any other relieft the court deems necessary and appropriate.

One of the many issues to be resolved is where the lawsuits ultimately will be heard. The NBA almost certainly will file a motion seeking that the players' complaints be moved to the Southern District, which is in the more employer-friendly 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Northern District in California is in the more employee-friendly 9th Circuit, while the Minnesota case was filed in the district residing in the 8th Circuit, where the NFL players ultimately fell short in their quest for a permanent injunction lifting the lockout.

The NBA players are not seeking a permanent injunction; rather, Boies said they are pursuing the more expeditious and fact-based summary judgment, which could save months of legal wrangling.

UPDATE: Boies asserted that the plaintiffs have the right to choose which appropriate court has jurisdiction over their lawsuit, and that the NBA's lawsuit in New York was premature -- since the NBA players had never before in their history of union representation since the 1950s disclaimed interest or decertified until Monday. In contrast to the NBA's argument that dissolution of the union and an antitrust action were the players' goals all along, the lawsuit laid out that the players participated in bargaining with the league for more than four years after they were first allegedly threatened with massive rollbacks of salaries and competition for their services. Boies said the players had continued to bargain for months while locked out, offering a series of economic concessions totaling hundreds of millions of dollars until they finally reached the owners' desired 50-50 split in the final days of negotiations.

Unlike the NFL Players' Association's failed disclaimer of interest and antitrust action, in which the players' case was harmed by the lack of certainty over whether the collective bargaining process had ended, Boies said there was no disputing that bargaining talks had concluded in the NBA -- and that Stern himself had ended them by presenting a series of ultimatums and "take-it-or-leave-it" offers that the players could not accept.

"They had an opportunity to start playing with enormous concessions from the players," Boies said. "That wasn’t enough for them. If the fans want basketball, there’s only one group of people that they can get it from, OK? And that’s the owners, because the players are prepared to play right now."

The NBA undoubtedly will argue that it was the players who ended bargaining when their union disclaimed, and that the disclaimer is a sham, or a negotiating tactic as opposed to a legitimate dissolution.

The lawsuits came one day after the players rejected the league's latest ultimatum to accept their bargaining proposal or be forced to negotiate from a far worse one. The National Basketball Players Association at that point disclaimed interest in representing the players any longer in collective bargaining with the league after failing to reach an agreement during the 4 1-2 month lockout that was imposed by owners July 1.

In the California case, Boies, his partner, Jonathan Schiller, and players' attorney Jeffrey Kessler laid out a meticulous case that the collective bargaining process had been ended by the owners and that the players had no choice but to dissolve the union and pursue their case via antitrust law. They laid out a series of concessions the players made in an effort to reach a deal, including a "massive reduction in compensation" and "severe system changes that would destroy competition for players."

The lawsuit quoted Stern's own demands when he issued two ultimatums to the union during the final week of talks, threatening the players both times to accept the offer (with a 50-50 revenue split and various restrictions on trades and player salaries) or be furnished a worse offer in which the players' salaries would have been derived from 47 percent of revenues in a system that included a hard team salary cap and rollbacks of existing contracts -- all deal points the two sides had long since negotiated past and abandoned.

Asked if Stern made a mistake issuing the ultimatums that ended the talks, Boies said, "If you're in a poker game and you bluff, and the bluff works, you're a hero. Somebody calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners overplayed their hand."

In the California lawsuit, the players' attorneys alleged that the owners' bargaining strategy was hatched during a meeting between league and union negotiators in June 2007. In that meeting, the lawsuit alleged, "Stern demanded that the players agree to a reduction in the players' BRI percentage from 57 percent to 50 percent," plus a more restrictive cap system. Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver told Hunter, according to the lawsuit, that if the players did not accept their terms, the NBA was "prepared to lock out the players for two years to get everything." Stern and Silver assured Hunter in the meeting that "the deal would get worse after the lockout," the lawsuit alleged.

The threats of getting a worse deal after the lockout if the players didn't accept the owners' terms were repeated in a letter to the union dated April 25, 2011, according to the lawsuit -- which then laid out the contentious, sometimes bizarre, and almost indisputably one-sided negotiation that transpired over the next few months.

"I will give the devil their due," Boies said. "They did a terrific job of taking a very hard line and pushing the players to make concession after concession after concession. Greed is not only a terrible thing, it's a dangerous thing. By overplaying their hand, by pushing the players beyond any line of reason, I think they caused this."

Boies said it was in neither side's best interests for the action to proceed to trial, which could take years and multiply the threat of damages against NBA owners. Even in their current capacity as members of a trade association, the players could have a settlement negotiated on their behalf among the attorneys for both sides. The settlement could then take the form of a collective bargaining agreement, but only after the majority of players agreed to reform the union and the owners agreed to recognize it.

Another option would be for a federal judge to require both sides to participate in mediation under the auspices of a federal magistrate; attendance would be required, though the results wouldn't be binding.

"There's lots of ways to get started, but it takes two to tango," said Boies, who once sued Microsoft in an antitrust case and represented Al Gore in his failed 2000 presidential bid based on a disputed vote count in Florida.

"If you've got somebody on the other side who is saying, 'It's my way or the highway, it's take it or leave it, this is our last and final offer and you will not see negotiation,' you can't resolve this," Boies said. "That, I will predict, that will stop, OK? There will come a time when the league faces the reality of the exposure that they face under the antitrust laws, the exposure that they face because of fan dissatisfaction with their unilateral lockout, the exposure they face by having other people in the business of professional basketball. And they will believe it is in their best interests to resolve this case.

"I can't tell you when that will happen," Boies said. "But I will tell you that it will happen, because those forces are too strong for anybody to resist indefinitely."





Comments

Since: Oct 11, 2011
Posted on: November 20, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Its not easy to run a profitable business,....

thats why most players never become owners or even GM's.  If you players think its so dang easy then why don't the players buy a few teams OR even invest in a few teams?  Largely because they would be over their heads.  Remember when Shaq said he would buy the Magic after he retired?  Is that in the works or does it depend on his book sales :)  
I laugh every time I read about another professional athlete that mis-manages their money.  I live in Cleveland I would understand if, the businessman, Dan Gilbert had to file for Bankruptcy with one of his investments (Cavs) and start over or just walk away.  As long as we have the NCAA tourney and a few other crappy sports, the fans will be ok.  We are used to players screwing us (Ringless James) and owners being forced to take a team away (Modell w/ Browns).  Life goes on and we find other teams/sports to cheer for.  
We don't need a NBA full of players we no longer support.  Think about it, even when the lockout ends, will you pay $100 per seat to watch these players cry on the court?
NOT ME  



Since: Oct 13, 2007
Posted on: November 17, 2011 10:57 pm
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

Start their own League? So where? They have the capital to build an arena? Schedule games? Charter flights? Hotels? Salaries? Taxes? What cities are going to foot the bill?

 

Wait!!!!!!!

 

Stop!!!!!!!

 

Majority of NBA players seem to lack the ability to manage their own finances, hence the reason for the lockout? YOU THINK YOU CAN MANAGE RUNNING A LEAGUE?




Since: Oct 13, 2007
Posted on: November 17, 2011 10:51 pm
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

Not for nothing, Is there a reason most of the photographs of disgruntled NBA Players, are all Black? Is this showing a divide that portrays the NBA and the Union of the long suffering of the "Black" player? Is it a litmus test on exactly who is crying the most about the lockout? I see a point where "White" NBA players are more comfortabe with their finances as opposed to the "Black" NBA players? Are the NBA and the Media out to prove a point, or justify how the "White" NBA owners are "The Slave Masters" and the players merely "Slaves"?

I personally think it is a shame, that any NBA player is "Suffering". You have a skill set for a sport that does not require a great amount of thinking, had any of them actually paid attention in college, and actually know what their degree is in? Can they survive without basketball?

Next up for NBA Players, applying for unemployment.,,

BREAKING NEWS!

LeBron James is going to hold a press conference friday afternoon. Reports are coming out that he is going to take his talents to Taco Bell.




Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: November 17, 2011 9:38 pm
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

Billy Hunter is looking out for basketball players the way Don King used to look out after boxers...by looking out for himself first.


Billy, and his legal team are the ONLY people wading through the NBA's swamp of stupididty, that are going to get paid without NBA games. They'll be paid MILLIONS to "represent" players down the legal "road to nowhere"  they guaranteed, by refusing to accept $2 BILLION in players salaries, and refusing to allow players a majority vote on that offer...and Billy and those lawyers will get paid, regardless of their performance, whithout the players drawing a check themselves.


Owners should be able to relate to paying millions to employees that embarrass them with their half-hearted performance, without making any money themselves....but I doubt they'll give players much sympathy.


Billy has lots of ideas about how to get other people's money.... He's volunteering to "help" players organize their own league...if the players  put up all the money (after they pay him for his legal "help" in a dozen lawsuits they can't win) , and he also knows players have trouble organizing their azz in a cab before the law arrives, after a strip club frecas.  


Remind me again WHO'S side IS Billy on ?     


    



Since: Jan 31, 2007
Posted on: November 17, 2011 4:48 pm
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

Let these greedy punks go start their own league.  The NBA is awful, it isn't what it use to be.  Too much other good stuff happening: NFL, NCAA Football, NCAA Hoops, who needs the NBA.  NOBODY, except the greedy players and owners!!  Take the whole season off fellas, no one watches until May, and by then we have MLB.  Keep sueing each other for the next year or two.  NOBODY CARES!!



Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: November 17, 2011 2:03 pm
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

 I took a real hard look at today's NBA standings. They tell me that nobody is winning. And the only party getting paid is these scum bag losers, I mean lawywers. Players, fire the lawyers and the NBAPA management team and get someone with some common sense to go to work for you. Just my humble opinion.



Since: Apr 13, 2008
Posted on: November 17, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

Is rondo trying to look like urkel?!



Since: Mar 30, 2010
Posted on: November 17, 2011 1:39 pm
 

Now that IS stupid

It's not like the players were fighting for working conditions or the ability to feed their families so I don't understand what their logic is for this suit other than it being an extension of how ther were getting their money anyway. They do NOTHING for 3 quarters and 10 minutes and now they want to be paid for 100% nothing. Good strategy guys. IQ's as high as your scoring average. Owners are crooks and thieves and players are primadonna athletes with no respect for the fans who wish they had half that talent. Bury the NBA for the joke that it was and go international already.



Since: Oct 24, 2006
Posted on: November 17, 2011 11:57 am
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

In answer to your question Richfb........NOBODY DOES!



Since: Jul 17, 2008
Posted on: November 17, 2011 11:08 am
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

Obviously, you did not see the draft class this year.  The league is about the top 15-20 players.  Without them, there is no league. It is a rare draft that includes more than 1 superstar, and you think that they can replace them with foreigners and college kids.  People won't pay to see that when they have been getting the top talent in previous years.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com