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Report: Five top agents pushing for union to decertify

Sep 14, 2011, 1:29 AM EST

Billy Hunter AP

A couple months back, agents were pushing to blow up the players union. A group of agents met with players’ union executive director Billy Hunter and urged him to take the aggressive approach of decertifying the union (what the NFL union did right at the start of their negotiations). That followed by and anti-trust lawsuit by several players was seen by the agents and leverage the union needed.

Hunter and union president Derek Fisher didn’t want to go with the “nuclear option.” They instead filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board charging the owners with not negotiating in good faith (there has yet to be a ruling).

Today, after weeks of meetings where the owners had not budged on demands for a hard salary cap, five prominent agents spoke about pushing again for decertification — even with out Hunter’s approval — reports Chris Broussard at ESPN.

The agents’ view is that the owners currently have most, if not all, of the leverage in these talks and that something needs to be done to turn the tide. They believe decertification will do the trick, creating uncertainty and wresting control away from the owners.

“The union has been negotiating with the league for a year and a half and the owners haven’t changed their stance, so the conversation the agents had was about how to work with the union to enhance its strategy,” a person close to the situation said on condition of anonymity. “The feeling is that decertification is the weapon that has to be pulled out of the arsenal, that it’s the most effective way to change the dynamics of the negotiations.”

Hunter, even Tuesday after a rough negotiating session, said Tuesday that the union leadership is not considering decertification. Not yet anyway.

But the agents could force the issue, Broussard notes. Combined they represent about 30 percent of NBA players, Broussard notes. If 30 percent of the union membership signed a petition to decertify, it would force a vote of the entire union membership. A simple majority in that vote and the union would be decertified, it would no longer exist. Several players would then file anti-trust lawsuits against the league.

Pushing things into the courts would be a wild card, but it is also a slow process. The owners don’t want to leave things up to the court — which is why they filed a pre-emptive suit trying to block decertification. Still, this could slow the entire pace of talks down, and they are not exactly moving quickly so far.

The fact remains that even if the union decertifies this thing is going to be hammered out at the negotiation table. The courts don’t want to make the call and wouldn’t for years most likely. The union might have better leverage, but a season could be lost as well. It’s a tough spot for the players.

The owners are going to win these negotiations. The only questions are how much the players will give up and when they will give it up? Decertification is not likely to change any of that.

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