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It was players’ idea to decertify, but did they really understand?

Nov 15, 2011, 11:11 AM EDT

Derek Fish of NBA players association speaks during news conference to reject NBA's latest offer in New York Reuters

How did this all go down? How did a Monday meeting where the union representatives were expected to reject the latest offer from the owners and make a counter proposal turn into dissolving the entire union and likely blowing up the NBA season with it?

The whole idea came from the players… well, if you think the players sit around and discuss the merits of different tactics of NBA labor law. So maybe we should look to the agents, except they are not thrilled with this move. Billy Hunter said did not come from union leadership. But while nobody will take credit, everybody had a hand in it at some level.

In the end, it comes back to the players. It’s their union. And this is how athletes react — they are competitive and will fight to win. They can make emotional decisions about winning that may not play out well in board rooms. They’ve been losing the negotiations so they responded in the most aggressive way they could. They took out the biggest club in their bag, even if this was not the best play at the time. And now here we are, staring at a lost season.

Here is what happened in Monday’s NBPA meeting, as reported by Ken Berger at

As Hunter described, union officials explained the owners’ proposal, which would’ve been replaced by a far worse one if the players didn’t accept it. He then laid out the options: present it to the full body for a vote; reject it; make a counterproposal; or give the NBPA the authority to “do whatever they deem necessary and appropriate going forward,” Hunter said.

“And then all of a sudden, the players said, ‘No, we want to talk about decertification or disclaimer,’ ” Hunter said. “So it actually came from the floor. And when it came from the floor, then that’s when we began to engage on the issue….

Players are not stupid and they understood the basic idea here, but did they really think through all the consequences? It’s hard to see enough guys getting behind this without a push from their agents, some of whom wanted to decertify July 1. That said, agents had been pushing for a player-led decertification effort that would have taken at least another 45 days (leaving time for negotiations). The disclaimer method — essentially the union disavowing the players — is much faster but much riskier. It’s not a move most agents wanted.

The decision to disclaim, announced after the nearly four-hour player meeting, stunned even those agents who had been clamoring for the players to decertify for months. Agents held a conference call late Monday afternoon, and according to a person who was briefed on it, hardly any of them were happy with the path the union chose….

“This is honestly the last thing I would’ve done,” one moderate agent said of the union’s disclaimer. “I can’t imagine these [players] truly know what they’ve gotten themselves into. … I don’t know an agent, including the decert agents, who are happy with this move.”

Did the players really get the consequences, that this may well have cost the NBA an entire season? And over what? Full mid-level exceptions for the seven teams playing the tax every season and to eliminate the repeater tax hikes for those teams? I get they players want a system that allows them more freedom of movement, but they got painted into a corner by Stern and rather than throwing the ball back in his court (with a counter proposal) they blew up the entire season. Stern gets to win the PR game again.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo pulled no punches on what he thought happened.

Too many of the player reps didn’t know the difference between a disclaimer of interest, decertification and “Dancing with the Stars” when they walked into that meeting. As it usually goes in these labor talks, whoever gets the players’ ears last can talk them in and out of almost any directive. The agents were locked out, cell phones confiscated at the door, and Hunter had a captive audience with some big fancy antitrust lawyers to make his case. Too many of those player reps are young kids who were given the task as a locker-room punishment, or older guys looking for the free annual meeting in the Caribbean.

Before they went this route, the NBA players should have talked to their NHL brethren and asked if losing a season was worth it, or if those guys regret the lost chances and lost salary more? It doesn’t feel like this strategy was really thought out all the way around the block.

  1. yournuts - Nov 15, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    This is a serious mistake on the players side. They can’t win the PR battle or the ownership battle either. Whomever is giving them advise has seriously miscalculated the power the league has and with no paychecks who is the party that gets hurt the most? Stupid is as stupid does.

  2. furedmccombs - Nov 15, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    From what I’ve heard…this could have been the biggest error on the Player’s side yet. There are rumors that with decertification the Owners will be able to void every last contract, and I have a feeling that while there will be some that are against it; there are so many horrible contracts in the NBA that most of the owners will go along with this tactic. Union just shot itself in the foot.

  3. skids003 - Nov 15, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    No, they don’t understand. They think they are much more important than they are. From Garnett using his “stare” to letting their agents do this, it’s obvious they don’t understand what they’ve done. All they’ve done is take money (lots of it) out of their own pockets.

  4. dkhhuey - Nov 15, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    All the money coming in has officially stopped. No more paychecks and no more endorsement cash. The vast majority of athletes have no clue what financial planning is and haven’t taken one step in securing the necessary investment vehicle required to sustain a life post play. Most of them have pissed their cash away on trips, houses, cars, women, posses, parties, jewelery, etc., etc., etc. The very very cold slap of reality will be hitting them quite soon and they will realize they erred BIG TIME by turning down this contract. The fact that these greedy employees thought they deserved 50% of the team revenue astounds me, but the fact that stood firm in their ego based reality that they deserved even more is just plan jaw dropping. Enjoy your fall into poverty boys because guess what – now that you’ve de-certified and the season is over – your contracts will all be cancelled. The owners will bring in new players for half the cash!

  5. worldbfree4me - Nov 15, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Obviously the players realize this is money that will be lost and possibly they won’t get back. But this move is a clear shot across the bow of the Owners listing ship. “We already have taken a loss, and now so will you!” If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything ~ Malcom X

    • giselleisasucubus - Nov 15, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      they play basketball. I dont give a damn if it a business or not, it is still just a game for entertainment. Now they take it away from the fans who lined their pockets. Dont defend the players, you sound ignorant.

  6. dolfan66r - Nov 15, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    C’mon man. Nobody really cares about the NBA regular season anyway. These players are believing they matter in the collective american conscience. They don’t and neither do the 72 or so meaningless games. They over value their own worth. The average sports fan want more NFL and even less NBA. They should take what they can get and be happy with it. Quoting Malcolm X has no relevance here. This is not the NFL

  7. worldbfree4me - Nov 15, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    And just because more than few clowns have blown their cash, Black players and White players alike, give the majority a little credit. They did not make it this far by pure luck and athletic gifts alone. These guys, collectively can hire the best minds to help them think about this business is a rational way. Granted, the league can run circles around the players on their own turf, this story reminds me of “David against Goliath” the “Peasants vs Noble” and I love it. Yeah, ultimately the players will lose more than the Owners ever will, but the players have earned the respect of most of the fans for standing up to these greedy Mo-Fo’s! Shalom

    • yournuts - Nov 15, 2011 at 2:11 PM

      I don’t think the players have earned any respect! In fact I think they lost respect to 80% of the public. It has nothing to do with David versus Goliath or peasant versus noble. Since when did David or the peasants earn this kind of money? Keep telling yourself this, it’s no wonder why the fans can’t stand the players or the NBAPA! Actually the fans will stand behind the owners. I see that the players think they are bigger than the league and that is not true. The league made the players what they are today. Without the league the players are nothing but a bunch of really tall guys. I am sorry that you think your bigger than you are but you are replaceable, all products are.

  8. giselleisasucubus - Nov 15, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    lets just put it out there- the players have NO CLUE. none. It was the same in the NFL, but they came to their senses when they realized they werent going to be getting game checks. To think these guys understand the process they are going through is just ridiculous. The owners won. End of story. Many owners HATED the deal that Stern presented, but he did it because the majority of owners didnt want to lose a full season. Think about this- who has more to lose? All the owners are very wealthy & have other businesses, but what about the players? What about a 2nd rd pick who is making 800k and has 1mil in bills? Dumb. The owners won by a landslide. Take the surprising 50% and start the damn season.

  9. cosanostra71 - Nov 15, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    The idea came from Jeffrey Kessler. Anyone who followed the NFL lockout knows this too. The moment the players hired him, you had to see it coming. Kessler does not care about resolving this dispute, he cares about making money (he makes more money every day the lockout goes on, and he makes more money by going to court) and making a name for himself. He tried to eliminate the draft in the NFL, you watch, pretty soon we’re going to see him do some ridiculous things in this dispute as well. Kessler is the reason why people don’t like lawyers. Even the NFL players came out of their lockout disliking the guy and he was supposedly representing them.

  10. semperfiguy1011 - Nov 15, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    The players have really stepped in it this time. They are going to wish they had taken the 50% when all is said and done. They can’t win the PR battle, and from everything I’ve heard, they can’t win in the courts either. Now, there is nothing to keep the hardline owners form going for the jugular. NBA players, this is what you aksed for, so get ready!

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