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NBA Lockout: Players Union Disbands, Season "In Jeopardy"

James Santelli |
November 14, 2011 | 3:25 p.m. PST

Senior Sports Editor

Union president Derek Fisher said disbanding was "the best decision for the players." (donielle/Creative Commons)
Union president Derek Fisher said disbanding was "the best decision for the players." (donielle/Creative Commons)
NBA players rejected a crucial labor deal Monday, dissolving their union and decreasing the likelihood that the 2011-12 season will be played at all.

By disbanding into a trade organization, the players have set the stage to file an antitrust suit against the league that could take months to resolve, effectively ending current lockout negotiations between owners and players.

"We're prepared to file this antitrust action against the NBA," union executive director Billy Hunter said. "That's the best situation where players can get their due process."

The NBA had offered a 50-50 split of basketball-related income, a decrease from the 57 percent of BRI that players had received under the previous collective bargaining agreement. The 50-50 deal was an ultimatum in negotiations, as commissioner David Stern had threatened that the number would be even lower for players if the proposal was rejected.

"We understand the consequences of potentially missing the season," players union vice president Maurice Evans said. "We understand the consequences that players could potentially face if things don't go our way, but it's a risk worth taking."

Stern released a statement saying that the NBA was prepared the players' move to dissolve the union, as a lawsuit had been threatened by the players for over a year.

"In anticipation of this day, the NBA filed an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board asserting that, by virtue of its continued threats, the union was not bargaining in good faith," Stern's statement read. "We also began a litigation in federal court in anticipation of this same bargaining tactic.

"There will ultimately be a new collective bargaining agreement, but the 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy."

So the labor dispute will head to the federal courts, meaning it could be a while before players are back on the NBA's basketball courts. Unless the owners decide to re-start negotiations with players, there is no timeframe for games to be played.

The players have hired attorney David Boies, who previously worked for the NFL against football players' own antitrust suit. Boies joins lead negotiator Jeffrey Kessler, and the two will lead the antitrust case for the players.

"They’re among the best, most effective lawyers in the country," economics professor Andrew Zimablist told Grantland's Jonathan Abrams. "The legal team is a strong legal team. The NBA has a strong legal team on their side. It'll be a field day for the lawyers."


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