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Report: Group of 50 NBA players threaten union decertification

Nov 3, 2011, 10:34 PM EDT

billy-hunter, derek fisher AP

In case you thought sanity might encroach on the NBA labor talks, we bring you this report:

A group of hardline NBA players, about 50, participated in a conference call this week behind the back of union leadership, reports both the New York Times and Yahoo. The upshot of the mid-week call is that if the union gives any more on either system issues or percentage of basketball related income, the group will start a drive to decertify the union.

Know that this is as much a negotiating tactic as a real threat, and effort to give the union some leverage. (“You need to get a deal with us now before this renegade group tries to hijack the talks.”) That said, the threat could anger owners and handcuff union leadership — Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher — in those talks.

Here are the highlights from Howard Beck at the Times:

Two conference calls were held this week between the players and an antitrust lawyer — once on Tuesday and again on Thursday. It is not clear whether union leaders have been directly informed of the effort.

“And the players are seriously considering decertification if a deal is not reached where the players’ proposals are in the final elements of the deal,” said the person connected to the players.

Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo adds this:

Said one player on the calls: “If nothing else, this takes us off our heels.”

Several prominent NBA agents were proponents of the calls, sources said.

A number of prominent agents have favored decertification from the beginning.

The “players’ proposals” means the players get 52 percent of basketball related income (BRI, the league’s revenue) and the system that allows teams paying the luxury tax to still use sign-and-trades and the mid-level exceptions (among other things). The owners have offered the players 50 percent of BRI and want to keep teams over the tax from having many exceptions to add higher-priced players.

Decertification means dissolution of the union, allowing individual players to sue the league on anti-trust grounds. Attorneys for the owners and players were in court this week on the owners efforts to block the players from decertifying. The NFL players union decertified immediately upon the start of the lockout but so far the NBA leadership has not chosen to go that direction.

To decertify it would take 30 percent of the more than 400 players to sign a petition to call for a vote. If that vote was called, a simple majority (50 percent plus one player) backing it would be enough to force decertification. Union leadership would be pushed aside in this process. That said, it is not clear there are the votes to pull this off.

Also know this — if the union decertifies you can all but kiss the season goodbye. The pro decertification forces will deny this, but doing so would put the issue into the courts and the owners have called this a “nuclear option” that would cause them to go to their bunker and really dig in. It would make a bad situation worse. There would be no season. So let’s hope this is more threat than reality.

  1. chargerdillon - Nov 3, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    If the players had done this over the summer before the season had started the deal would’ve been done just like the deal with the NFL was done.

    It’s all a game of posturing and this is one side puffing up their chest a little bit more

    • hail2tharedskins - Nov 4, 2011 at 12:49 AM

      Not necessarily true. Moving through the courts takes time and the NBA off season is a lot shorter than the NFL off season. In addition to the time constraint, the NBA owners/players were further apart than the NFL owners/players (keep in mind that the NFL players settled their lawsuit by accepting a deal that was pretty close to what the owners offered them the day the decertified – so the lawsuit really didn’t provide that much leverage at the end of the day). Personally, I believe any decertification of the NBA players’ union would have at least resulted in half a season lost if not the entire season (which was why the union was reluctant to go that course).

  2. charlutes - Nov 3, 2011 at 10:48 PM

    I honestly hope this takes them five years to figure out. Serves both sides right. Hockey’s more fun to follow anyhow.

  3. seattlesuperchronic - Nov 3, 2011 at 11:29 PM


    I love me some hoops. But you may be right. It might be time to give hockey a try.

  4. stayhigh_247 - Nov 4, 2011 at 12:33 AM

    i have been locked in on hockey lately, i have always hated that it battles the nba for my attention because i’m a fan of both but ballin is ballin. its cool to catch back up on nhl though, besides ncaa ball is 2 weeks away and this lockout is going to give college ball a major boost like the late 80’s early 90’s….

  5. hail2tharedskins - Nov 4, 2011 at 1:05 AM

    I cant imagine how decertifying and filing an anti-trust suit now would be in the players’ best interest. Not only would the entire season certainly be lost (it would be 2012 before opening briefs would even be submitted to the court in an anti-trust case), but the league has already pre-emptively filed suit and therefore the case would be heard in what the NBA feels is the most favorable court, a court by the way that the players are currently telling a judge they have no plans to decertify and file anti-trust claims. Would be extremly difficult to get favorable rulings in a court the NBA selected and a court in which you have been in for several weeks arguing that you have no plans to decertify and file anti-trust claims.

    I think the league’s pre-emptive suit (while largely frivolous) might turn out to be one of the smartest moves of this entire dispute. By the way, I can’t imagine the players (or their agents) are actually serious about decertifying the union as long as the current case is active. One of the things the league has asked for is that in the event the court deems a union decertification to be legal that they allow the league to terminate all contracts. That is too much risk for the players and their agents, considering that winning an anti-trust lawsuit and having it withstand appeal is less than 50/50 and a very lengthy process to see through (and even if you win you don’t know how much in damages the league will be required to pay) and in the meantime the league would be able to reopen its doors and pay players as little as they want. So until the court dismisses the current case or rules that the league cannot terminate existing contracts, I assume a union decertifyication is nothing more than a bluff to create leverage (but how can it create leverage when the owners certainly know this as well).

  6. suck2bu - Nov 4, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    I love the game of basketball, but when money is thrown into the mix it hurts the game and the fans. Basketball has not been the same since Jordan, Magic, Stockton, Barkley, and Olajuwon just to name a few of the great players in the early 80’s, called it quits. I say we boycott the NBA!!!

  7. skids003 - Nov 4, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    I heard some idiot analyst on ESPN last night make the statement that the owners should never make more money than the players (employees). Honestly, that is about the stupidest comment I’ve heard in awhile. Why own a business when you can work for them and make more money? What has America come to.?

  8. florida727 - Nov 4, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    “Also know this — if the union decertifies you can all but kiss the season goodbye… the owners have called this a “nuclear option” that would cause them to go to their bunker and really dig in. It would make a bad situation worse. There would be no season. So let’s hope this is more threat than reality.”
    Gosh, I hope you’re right, and I hope this is more reality than threat.
    I say: drop the puck! NHL rocks!

    • stadix093 - Nov 4, 2011 at 11:38 AM

      NHL went away for an entire year and nobody noticed. Must be really good.

  9. stoutfiles - Nov 4, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    Maybe for you Kurt since your job is to write about basketball. Many of us would be fine getting our fix with the college game…and just imagine how much better that would without the best players jumping ship after 1-2 years for the pros.

  10. blueintown - Nov 4, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    Lots of thumbs up for the hockey posts. Like, an unusual amount of “like” traffic for this site. Are you seeing this, NBA?

  11. behaviorquest - Nov 4, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    How about just decertify the entire NBA? We don’t need them, college ball is far more exciting and has an actual team feel to it. The NBA has become nothing more than a bunch of entitled thugs that are very poor role models for our kids. If you think an inner city thug dripping in bling is a good role model then I feel sorry for you.

  12. skids003 - Nov 4, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    I have an idea. Split up BRI 48/48 with the other 4% going back to the fans. Shouldn’t the fans get something out of this? Not just more expensive tickets and stuff. They should get something for their pain and suffering.

  13. lunasceiling - Nov 4, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    With unlikable jerks on both sides of the fight, a league that has hyped the “cult of the superstar” at the expense of loyalty to a team, and fantastic EPL and NHL seasons taking shape, I’m trying very hard to care about the NBA. And failing…

  14. diablos67 - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    Oh…do they promise? That way we can get the basketball stuff out of the way. Reading the comments I’m seeing a theme. No One Cares about your sport. If you cancel they season, life goes on and no one will notice…

    • stadix093 - Nov 4, 2011 at 11:35 AM

      You care enough to come back to this site. Every single day.

  15. basketballfan4life - Nov 4, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    So Mr. BehaviorQuest, I take it u are a better role model than the players. Let’s break this down. I am an African-American man that was raised in an inner city. I have an eight year old son that love basketball and he has been following the lockout process. What do u think he would take from reading ur comment on this blog?

    Let’s see:
    1) His dad grow up in an inner city
    2) He has visited where his dad is from and has see the many hardships and disadvantages
    3) He noticed that everyone in the inner city is the same ethnicity

    From this Knowledge, do u think he would say u were saying the African-American players in the NBA are the “inner city thugs” u are referring to? What do u think he would think about u? What do u think he would think u thought about him and his dad?

    Basketball is a game for the purpose of entertaining. It, nor are the parties involved meant to play role model. We are! What role are u playing

  16. stadix093 - Nov 4, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    How the hell did this turn from a basketball story to role models and racist bs? Inner city thugs huh? Because when I think gangster, Kyle Korver and Jimmer are the first in mind. Do I believe both the owners and players are idiots? Yes. Does that have anything to do with me wanting to see high quality basketball? Not really. College is too sloppy for my taste and other sports just feel too slow. I don’t want to see 3-2 scores after sitting for hours. Give me 101-100 please. Why all the hate people?! Damn sports fans can’t we all respect each others stuff? This comment section is getting worse than yahoo.

  17. dihigosghost - Nov 4, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    For those of you that like hockey, good for you, I never cared for it myself. But still, hockey has its fans, as does soccer, women’s basketball, volleyball, BMX, extreme sports, wrestling, MMA, UFC, to mention a few. I might have to start watching one of these other sporting events if the NBA continues with its strike. So if the owners and the players want to continue on a self-destructive course, so be it. Both sides need to give just a little more to get a deal done. If they don’t, I might have to go back to watching one of my favorites sports from my youth, Roller Derby.

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