Atlanta Hawks: Labor fight heads to courtroom as season in jeopardy

(3:40 p.m. update: David Stern speaks, Billy Hunter says season probably lost.)

NBA players got David Stern’s memo and dragged it to the trash bin.

Not only did the NBPA not send the owners’ latest offer to a vote of the full membership, the executive committee and the 30 player reps unanimously rejected the proposal and filed a “disclaimer of interest” that renounces the union’s interest in representing players in bargaining with the league. Billy Hunter said the next stop is a federal courtroom, where individual players will file antitrust suits against owners.

At a press conference following the union meeting, Hunter said “the collective bargaining process has completely broken down.” Later on NBA TV Hunter said: “It’s a high probability rather than possibility” that the 2011-12 season is lost.

Later on SportsCenter, Stern blasted union leadership for what he called a “sham” strategy, said the move is “really irresponsible given the timing of it” and predicted a “nuclear winter of the NBA.”

“It’s OK to do when you haven’t lost a game, but to do it now, the union is ratcheting it up to, I guess, see if they can scare the NBA owners into something,” Stern said. “That’s not happening. What they’ve done is destroy incredible value that otherwise would have gone to union membership.”

It seems some players also are questioning why the union waited until now to take such a drastic step, especially since Hunter and Derk Fisher have said all along that they didn’t think owners would ever present a deal players would accept. Deron Williams went to Twitter to vent on the union’s strategy:

“This is why I said we should have done this in July bc at least the process would have been underway… even over! Now possibly #NOSEASON”

Since Stern already had already said the owners are done negotiating–and noted today that there now is no union with which to negotiate–this means the season is in jeopardy as the two sides fight it out in court. Once players file the suit, we will see if owners follow through with Stern’s threat to void all existing contracts.

Gabriel A. Feldman, the director of the Tulane Sports Law Program, offered a good primer on the legal ramifications of the union’s move:

Assuming the mere threat of decertification/litigation is not enough to move the owners, the NBPA could (while the players are waiting for the decertification election) disclaim interest in representing the players. Disclaimer would permit the players to file their antitrust suit immediately. The NBA owners would argue that any such lawsuit must be heard in NY, so the players could either file in NY (unlikely) or file in another jurisdiction and engage in a legal battle to allow them to choose where the case is heard (more likely).

Stern has said all along that disclaimer/decertification is a losing strategy for players, citing the suit lost by NFL players last summer when they went the disclaimer route. On SportsCenter today he called the union’s tactic a “magical trick” that won’t succeed.

(The union has retained litigator David Boies, who represented the NFL in that case. Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?)

But Feldman explains why the NFL case doesn’t necessarily mean NBA players will lose in court:

The ruling in Brady [vs. NFL] obviously favors the NBA owners, but the NBA players may still have success in court for at least a few reasons. First, only courts within the Eighth Circuit are bound by Brady, and it is a virtual certainty that any antitrust suit brought by the NBA players would not be filed in a court within the Eighth Circuit (the NBA filed its preemptory legal action in NY, and the players would likely file their suit in an employee-friendly jurisdiction like California).

Second, let’s be clear as to what the Eight Circuit decided in the Brady case. The NFL players argued that the NFL lockout was illegal and asked for 2 things–an injunction and damages. The district court preliminarily concluded that the lockout was illegal and granted the injunction. The Eighth Circuit reversed, narrowly holding that the Norris-LaGuardia Act prevents federal courts from enjoining lockouts. The court did not conclude that the lockout was illegal and did not conclude that the players were not entitled to bring their antitrust claim. So, even if a court was bound by Brady, it could still determine that the players are able to bring a post-dissolution antitrust suit challenging the lockout, and that the lockout was illegal. In other words, Brady does not prevent the NBA players from dissolving their union and bringing a successful antitrust suit for three-times damages.

Third, decertification (as opposed to disclaimer) may give the NBA players a more powerful argument in court. In Brady, the NFL argued that the NFLPA’s disclaimer of interest was a sham, in part, because it “lack[ed] the formality of decertification” and was “literally a paper-thin statement, issued unilaterally by a union, that may readily be overturned.” The formality of the decertification process could thus weigh in the NBA players’ favor.

Sorry to bog down my blog people with a bunch of legalese but, sadly, that’s where we are. I will update here after Stern speaks.

Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat

315 comments Add your comment

O'Brien

November 14th, 2011
2:59 pm

I knew the players didn’t like the new deal. But I thought they would fall on the sword, rather than miss an entire season, go to court, and possibly still end up with a deal they don’t like.

Oh well. There goes the season. I feel bad for those businesses (restaurants in the area, etc) and workers who depended on the basketball salary (parking lot attendees, vendors etc).

Astro Joe

November 14th, 2011
3:19 pm

NBA? Lawsuits? Prolonged agony? When did the ASG start negotiating on behalf of the owners?

Oh well, more Old School basketball games on NBATV featuring Artis Gilmore and his legendary afro.

Michael Cunningham

November 14th, 2011
3:21 pm

@O’Brien: “I feel bad for those businesses (restaurants in the area, etc) and workers who depended on the basketball salary (parking lot attendees, vendors etc).”

And broken-down beat writers?

No, seriously, I will be fine–there is still a newspaper without a league–but it does suck for those people.

Cupid06

November 14th, 2011
3:25 pm

This is truly a sad day for basketball… I do admire the player’s courage to stand as a unit against these greedy owners. I hope they win their antitrust lawsuit and get these owners to realize that without the players, the NBA is nothing. You would think that giving up 3 billion among other things would be enough, but apparently not. For the owners who can keep up w/ the tax-paying owners, I say what the hypocrite Jordan mentioned in the previous CBA, “SELL YOUR TEAM!!!”

Proper management, scouting, and personnel is what keeps an NBA team contending. If you can’t find the right people to get the job done, FIRE THEM AND FIND SOMEONE WHO CAN!! Every team will not contend every year and only one team wins a championship each year. There will be teams that will not be good as others, it’s been like that since the HISTORY of the game!!

Overall, I just feel sorry for the fans, workers, and surrounding business of NBA teams as O’Brien stated because the economy is already bad, why add insult to injury???

honest_abe

November 14th, 2011
3:30 pm

the system is broke. until the players realize this there won’t be anymore basketball. not to mention the uphill pr battle the nba is constantly fighting just got significantly worse. if the entire season is missed the nba will be set back another 10 years.

Section 303

November 14th, 2011
3:31 pm

What a bunch of idiots. Watching Billy Hunter and the players in the above video, that is all I could think…what a bunch of idiots. They’re going to get crushed by Stern and the owners.

If I were an owner, I would push for an NFL like system. Cut the guarantee contracts. Guys can get cut at a moments notice. Make the pressure be on the players every day to preform.

Also, why no vote from the NBA players? Makes no sense to me. You know d@mn well that Hunter and Fisher presented the NBA’s proposal in the most negative light possible. So, why should the team reps be able to make the call on the proposal getting rejected? Should have been open to all players to vote on.

I, like many, did not think the season would happen anyways. So, I’m not surprised. I just think the players are getting bad advice. They’ve taken a pass on the best deal they will see. Can’t wait to hear Hunter/Fisher try to rationalize why passing on this deal was such a good idea a year from now, when they sign a far worse proposal.

doc

November 14th, 2011
3:33 pm

blood in the streets

union shws resolve that they heeded hunters call three years ago to be prepaared. guess owners dthought they could play the heavy with impunity

now i sit back and collect my monthly check from the spirit and have no contract with them on the next year. called it pretty good becauseseats will be cheap if they really try to get folks back in them.

just the same sad but this should have never come this far as both used the fans and season revenues and salaries as blackmail on each other

funny how i am now interested in college football and basketball more than in recent years past

ill drink one for a good march madness tonight

Michael Cunningham

November 14th, 2011
3:45 pm

@doc: people who bought Hawks tickets and took the interest are looking good. have you seen the rates on CDs lately? betting against the NBA was the best short-term investment out there.

doc

November 14th, 2011
3:47 pm

the rabbit ij the players sleeve will be anti trust issues that the club of owners have to accept

once in court we the fans see true tranbsparancies of revenue streams

this may get owners back to the table just like it got the nfl back to negotiate when decertification struck. thismay be what owners fear and they are not willing to sjow their acvointing wizzardry which they will be forced to do.again fans know what playees make and are horrified. my guess is they will be even more horrified when the books are open for a to see and see what liars are at work. i hope to be able to see it tgen i will know who the idiots are really players owners or fans not realzing what cash cows we were. if the owners fold then we know who is at higher risk and they dont eant the story to go any further. just based on big business past experiences.

doc

November 14th, 2011
3:48 pm

not when you have only one place to s

DIT

November 14th, 2011
3:55 pm

LOVE IT! Don’t go away mad NBA, just go away!!!

doc

November 14th, 2011
3:55 pm

dpend ypur money not having a clue as to what the product is you are buying in a year mc. also yje owners threw that out there sp it would float yhem like an insurance compamy does to rob ypu daily knowing they are maling money for evety day they delay. it is a fan subsidy that requirs more money spent in the future.

not betting against the nba just want to onow what i got to look at. i was knda glad i didnt have big bank stocks because who woupd ever think betting against them was good xcept those that shorted them now holding isdes thatdont pay them back much because thrir value is down and dividends gone. you know?

doc

November 14th, 2011
3:58 pm

mc hope you can translate iphone speak on a walk :-)

doc

November 14th, 2011
4:02 pm

btw my czech gorlfriend was pretty mad when the trashers left after i promised her if she went to more hawks games i would take her yo more hockey games. good bet.

now she will claim karma won when she finds out that the strike will go further. she will miss zaza though. heh heh

GetaGrip

November 14th, 2011
4:06 pm

Cupid06…you are an idiot. This system is BROKE….MANY owners are LOSING money on this watered down product. Only a handful of teams can compete for a title and that leads to empty seats in a TON of arenas. They need an NFL model in order to survive. The beauty of the NFL is that you can suck one year and legitimately contend the next. That is NOT the case in the NBA. The Hawks have NO shot…the Hornets have NO shot…the Jazz have NO shot…I could go on and on. The NBA needs to tell college player to stay in school for 3 years…just like the NFL. There needs to be a HARD salary cap preventing the debacle in Miami. Of all pro sports…I have the least interest in the NBA due to the structure of the league. And I love basketball…just not what this has become.

lewis

November 14th, 2011
4:09 pm

Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter are idiots.

They hire 2 suffering from napoleon complex?

The players will never see 50% again

sam

November 14th, 2011
4:10 pm

NBA sucks until playoffs anyway..hopefully they’ll have a 10 game season and then have playoffs. College hoops are better anyway.

mountain_jim

November 14th, 2011
4:12 pm

Thank God for Falcon football and playoffs…. oh wait….nevermind

Clyde

November 14th, 2011
4:20 pm

What GETAGRIP said.

Manny

November 14th, 2011
4:22 pm

I wonder if they Hawks would just give me my money back instead of having to pay the interest on it? I never expected to lose the entire season.

Baddabing

November 14th, 2011
4:31 pm

Good for the owners. The system is broken and needs to be torn down and rebuilt. Baseball is not far behind. Football has a salary cap which creates a competitive balance that you don’t have in either basketball or baseball and it’s thriving. Probably half of baseball and basketball franchises are losing money. Plain and simple; Would you pay $75-$100 a ticket or more to go see the Cavaliers play the Pistons? I think not.

Zit

November 14th, 2011
4:33 pm

Get over it, atlanta. you still have the falcons, braves and georgia tech. hahahahahahahahaha

Shut it down

November 14th, 2011
4:34 pm

The NBA is in a lockout? Who knew? The league could permanently disband for all I care.

doc

November 14th, 2011
4:35 pm

manny no they wont but they have told me i can switch “up” to the 20% plan. :-)

you guys with money in are supporting the owners clear and simple.

Cupid06

November 14th, 2011
4:36 pm

GetaGrip, you’re the damn idiot. Teams in the NFL can compete after making changes is because of personnel and system changes, such as the 49ers. Same team, different coach, different system….SUCCESS. As I stated, if someone is not getting the job done, get someone in office who can! You’re entitled to your opinion, so don’t disrespect mines you used Tampon…

Scott

November 14th, 2011
4:40 pm

NO ONE cares about basketball, PERIOD. It only appeals to one demographic anyway.

honest_abe

November 14th, 2011
4:41 pm

cupid – you argument holds no water. sort of like that childish 3rd grade tampon insult. the nba is a god awful system. guaranteed contracts, poor owners who overpay to stay semi competitive, a “soft” salary cap…. you are in the 1% my friend who has any empathy for the players.

just not much sympathy into today’s climate for the millionaire that being taken advantage of by billionaires. puuuuuuuhlease.

doc

November 14th, 2011
4:41 pm

competitive balance in the nfl is because of a schedulong system that hurts the good and benefits the bad. in such a system the hawks would have been world beaters one year and trash the next because they couldnt play against the good. however the perception is competitive balance rather than a watered down product when the poayoffs arrive.

slimjr

November 14th, 2011
4:42 pm

Good bye NBA..Maybe next year?

enough already

November 14th, 2011
4:43 pm

I’m a real nba fan And I must say that both sides need to re evaluate; the players have given up alot of money in terms of revenue sharing and the owners make it possible for a NBA…i feel it’s possible for both to win..ownwers to make a profit and players get good contracts; we as regular people really do not understand this type of business and should keep our negative/ignorant comments to ourselves. I love basketball but I’m not going to make it personal because I just want to see basketball.

Michael Cunningham

November 14th, 2011
4:45 pm

@GetaGrip: “The Hawks have NO shot”

East semis is pretty good for a team with “no shot.” smarter decisions (and you know what they are) over the years would have made the Hawks a real contender. what does that have to do with the structure of the league?

Michael Cunningham

November 14th, 2011
4:46 pm

@ lewis: “Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter are idiots. They hire 2 suffering from napoleon complex?”

Derek Fisher is 6-1.

Section 303

November 14th, 2011
4:47 pm

At least I took the interest from the Hawks. So, when the season is called off (they might as well do that right now), the team will owe my wife and I around $500. Wonder if the ASG will be able to swing that?

Donaldo

November 14th, 2011
4:50 pm

I will not miss them a bit. NCAA is where the action and fun of the game are anyway. Good luck boys, guess you gotta get a real job.

Michael Cunningham

November 14th, 2011
4:51 pm

@Scott: “NO ONE cares about basketball, PERIOD. It only appeals to one demographic anyway.”

basketball fans?

the Finals had their best ratings in 11 years.

goodridance

November 14th, 2011
5:00 pm

I can’t think of any better way to spend the Holidays. No NBA.
The remaining fans can now vote with theirs wallets. Who wants to waste money on a dying professional sport? Maybe in ten years there will only be highlight videos of a DEAD sport.

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

November 14th, 2011
5:01 pm

I never cared for basketball.

The Real JC

November 14th, 2011
5:06 pm

Last year’s Finals were some of the best of the decade, and it’s a real tragedy that all that momentum is now lost.

@Donaldo – sorry, but the NCAA and NBA are and forever will be co-dependent. The league depends on top NCAA talent in the draft each year, but without the possibility of making it to the NBA, there’s not much of a point to play in the NCAA. School pride aside, if the biggest payday is in Europe, why spend 4 years playing for free if you’ll just end up doing the same thing four years later? It’s like going to grad school, then taking a job you could’ve gotten out of undergrad.

Michael

November 14th, 2011
5:08 pm

If we’re really, really, really lucky, they’ll cancel all of the NBA season—-but if we,re even luckier than that, they’ll do away with that garbage forever!!!!

Paddy

November 14th, 2011
5:08 pm

Sounds like the NBA union just did an Air Traffic Control Union mistake. I am not calling David Stern Ronald Ragen, but he did exactly what he said he would do. Many missed car payments and house payments in the near future. But we all know that the League needed a complete overhall to stay viable!

Aquagirl

November 14th, 2011
5:10 pm

Looks like child support payments in America are gonna take a hit.

doc

November 14th, 2011
5:10 pm

people are quick to point out that the players have all to lose, something tells me the owners do as well. would like to hear that argument. again players are transparent owners arent. yup agree there are many things to work on honest to make it a better product but that is still not at the heart of this disagreement.

GetaGrip

November 14th, 2011
5:21 pm

And the Eastern Semis are as far as they will ever get…when I say NO shot…I mean NO shot at winning it all. In MLB…despite the lack of a hard cap…you still have mid-level teams that make the playoffs (where only FOUR teams per league get in, not 8) and shockers happen…San Francisco last year? St. Louis who EVERYBODY thought was dead. Florida Marlins with TWO World Series? The NBA is about 4-5 teams who have loaded up on the stars of the league. I have news for you…OKC is a GREAT young team…but they will NEVER win in this current format. This league is BROKEN…and if you don’t see that…well then that’s a whole different conversation.

The world will go on

November 14th, 2011
5:29 pm

I’ve been a pro-basketball lover, and for years I had Hawks seasoon tickets just 3 rows behind the Hawks’ bench. But in the past few years, I have tired of all the hoodlums, etc. in the sport, and released my 2 seats. I was thrilled when David Stern implemented the dress code. Now, if there is no season, you know what? Good. Life will go on. Maybe some people will take up a hobby, etc.

As a physician, I can’t lose too much sleep for folks getting paid millions to play with a ball when I and my colleagues–also police, firefighters, teachers–have to fight to get paid for the important work that we do.

NO NBA this year? No big loss. We’ll all survive. It might do the society some good! [I'd feel sorry for independent vendors, though]

Peter

November 14th, 2011
5:29 pm

Poor JJ will he get his pay check so he can pimp more rides ?

Peter

November 14th, 2011
5:31 pm

The league allowed idiots like the Atlanta Spirit to buy the Hawks….and the JJ contract is one of the most glaring mistakes owners want to stop !

Worldwide Clyde

November 14th, 2011
5:40 pm

Some baby mommas bout to start locking folks up when the money don’t come in.

FIRE SUND

Worldwide Clyde

November 14th, 2011
5:43 pm

I don’t see no NBA players in the strip club no mo.

FIRE LD

rally

November 14th, 2011
5:44 pm

Goodbye NBA. Who cares. I have been saying for the last 15 years that Stern was the worst thing that could have happened for the NBA. No rules….poor officiating. Terrible Player Moral…..too many thugs….and criminality. Jordan, Bird, and Johnson, Paxson, Marovich, Stockton, now those were players the NBA can admire….not these babies that whine and moan all the time.

I am not going to loose any sleep over this one. Stern get out….your a horrible commissioner you rotten greedy no good fat lard.

drmaryb .[*_*].

November 14th, 2011
5:47 pm

Mean – Mugging!

Did yawl see that mean-mugg on Maurice Evans face, as he
stood tall behind Fisher & Hunter? LOL! Maurice looked like he was about to cry.

What was the amount of that option he exercised while here in Atlanta before he was traded last season? 2.75M? I forget, it may have been much less than that.

I hope Mr. Evans has been a good money manager, because he represents the bulk of players on small salary scales. I imagine the IRS takes about .40 of that, unless Maurice has some good tax shelters or self funded charities to hide some of that taxable income. The problem is so many people have lost big money in the 2008 Wall Street shenanigans.

I have a personal friend, who was a 73 year old millionaire. He woke up the next day and had lost 675K over night in his blue chips portfolio of: Lehman, Gold & Sachs, Morgan Stanley, GM & Chrysler. His entire portfolio collapsed that one night. 6 months later, Bob died of Lymphoma that he didn’t even know he had. My guess is his old lady is fine now, since Bob was worth more dead. He was devastated, because his entire 401K was poofed! How can these fat cats steal from the 401K? That should be untouchable – right? Bob was a Blue Cross Blue Shield Broker (salesman) down in Florida for 55 some odd years.

Here’s my point: I’m sure many of the NBA players lost a ton of money that way too. The life style is very tricky to maintain. My guess is that these players will need a money stream.