Lockout battle moves to courtroom as NBA files lawsuit against Players Union
The NBA lockout has moved beyond the civil stage of back-and-forth negotiations and has officially entered the courtroom.
The NBA filed a lawsuit on Aug. 2 in an effort to block any attempt by the National Basketball Players Association to file an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, which would be permissible if the Players Association were to decertify. The NBA asserts that decertification by the NBPA would be a sham, only used as an illegal and impermissible negotiating tactic against the league as the two sides attempt to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement.
The lawsuit is a preemptive strike against the Players Association as player agents continue to pressure union chief Billy Hunter to decertify amid a perceived unwillingness by owners to budge on their proposal to the Union.
The NBA also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the Players Association has not negotiated in good faith — a response to the same charge the Players Association accused the league of a few days prior.
The NBA’s lawsuit also contained one very interesting request of the courts. It states that “the NBA requests a declaration that, if the NBPA’s disclaimer were not deemed invalid by the NLRB, and the collective bargaining relationship between the parties were not otherwise to continue, all existing contracts between NBA players and NBA teams … would be void and unenforceable.”
This lawsuit would be a huge win for the NBA in negotiations with the Players Association. If the courts rule in favor of the NBA’s request preventing the league from facing an antitrust lawsuit if the Players Association were to dissolve, then decertification by the Players Association would be useless since the purpose behind decertification — filing an antitrust lawsuit — could not be pursued. If the courts choose to agree with the NBA that all contracts agreed to between players and teams under terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement should be null and void upon decertification, then players — especially highly paid players like Kobe Bryant, Rashard Lewis, etc. — would risk losing their contracts completely, in effect making the entire cast of NBA players free agents.
Of course there would be appeals by whichever side lost, leading to lengthy court battles and most likely costing the NBA the 2011-12 season. Most observers agree that taking the battle through the courts is the option taken if neither side believes the season can be saved, and considering the amount of silence between the two sides when it comes to actual negotiating, the likelihood of a lost season appears more and more probable.
By: Eric Lorenz
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