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Agents to meet with union president to talk decertification

Jul 22, 2011, 9:31 AM EST

Billy Hunter AP

In it’s back pocket, the National Basketball Players Association — the NBA players union — has a bomb it could drop.

During the season, it got the paperwork signed by players that would allow for decertification of the union. If filed this would end the union, allowing some players to then sue the league. It’s the route the NFL players decided to go. But so far union director Billy Hunter has not wanted to play that card or even really talk about it.

NBA player agents like the decertification idea, and they are meeting with Hunter Friday, according to Bloomberg.

A number of National Basketball Association player agents will meet with union Executive Director Billy Hunter today to discuss topics that include decertification, two people familiar with the situation said….

The agents and players might push for decertification for two possible reasons, according to Paul Haagen, who teaches contracts and sports law at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

“Decertification is potentially an expression of lack of confidence in the existing union and its effectiveness in negotiation,” Haagen said in a telephone interview. “Or it is a strategy about unions and collective bargaining all together, the belief that it might be better to operate outside of the federal labor laws and have a much more open labor market.”

Agents as a group like the idea of an open, more free market. Many also do not have a love for Hunter.

But Hunter and union president Derek Fisher have resisted the decertification and courts route. Part of that is time — the federal courts are slow and the NBA’s offseason is much shorter than the NFL’s. Decertification and an antitrust lawsuit now would almost certainly mean lost games and maybe a full lost season. The union has said decertification would slow the process down.

Elsewhere in New York Friday, midlevel staff from the NBA and the union will meet again to have negotiations. This is smaller stuff laying the groundwork for meetings in August between the heads of the two sides. The big question still out there is both how to define and then divide “basketball related income” — which is the revenue generated by ticket sales, national television contracts, jersey sales, concession sales, sponsorships and just about everything else that comes into the league. The players got 57 percent under the old deal, the owners want to both lower that percentage and be able to deduct certain expenses from that amount so it is more net than gross income.

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