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NBA players not ruling out union decertification

Jul 11, 2011, 2:57 PM EDT

billy-hunter

If it comes to this, it’s when you know things have gotten really, really bad.

But for now the NBPA — the players union — is refusing to take the idea of decertification of the union off the table, according to Howard Beck at the New York Times.

Of course, not taking it off the table and actually using it are two very different things.

But the path the N.F.L. Players Association chose — decertification, coupled with an antitrust lawsuit — remains a weapon in the basketball players’ arsenal should negotiations fail.

“It’s not off the table in any way,” said Jeffrey Kessler, the outside counsel for the N.B.P.A. “There’s no immediate urgency to that issue. It’s an option the players are actively considering. But they have time to decide whether it makes sense to end the union or not.”

Kessler, who also serves as outside counsel for the football players’ union, is known as a fierce proponent of decertification as a means to gain bargaining leverage. Hunter and Derek Fisher, the basketball players’ union president, prefer to stick to negotiating.

Shocking, the high-priced attorney sees going to court — a process that requires a lot of lawyers and a lot of prep time — as a good option. (It’s the same way surgeons see surgery as the best way to deal with many health problems where there are other options, it’s a worldview.) But he is right that you never take it off the table. Just pray they don’t use it.

It took the NFL four months to get to the point where the court battle is at a standstill. Four months from the start of the NBA lockout would put them in October, when camps should be opening. Fisher and Hunter are wise to negotiate, to be patient, not to take a radical step until you must.

If the NBA players union does decertify — and it got the signed paperwork from players to do it during the season — it will be a strategy fraught with risk. there will be no owners and while the players can sue the owners can institute new rules to their liking. Decertification would be a sign that things were going so poorly the union decided that blowing things up was the better option.

Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that.

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