The players’ union declared solidarity and determination to get a favorable deal for its members after a three-hour strategy meeting Thursday, but those announcements were overshadowed by reports of a possible uprising that could further complicate an already chaotic labor dispute and potentially jeopardize the season.
Several news outlets, including the New York Times, Yahoo! Sports and ESPN, reported late Thursday night that a group of 50 players, including several NBA all-stars, are pushing for a dissolution of the National Basketball Players Association based on their dissatisfaction with the concessions that the union already has made in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
The NBA lockout is in its 127th day, and talks have stalled after yet another breakdown last Friday, when union executive director Billy Hunter stormed out of the bargaining session and the league canceled the first month of the regular season. But as Hunter and union president Derek Fisher attempted to quash reports of a rift between them and announced that the union would continue negotiations Saturday, there are more indications of player unrest.
A rogue faction of players reportedly had two conference calls with antitrust attorneys to discuss seeking decertification if collective bargaining talks this weekend prove ineffective or produce an unsatisfactory labor deal. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Jason Kidd, Blake Griffin, Tyson Chandler and Al Horford were reportedly involved in the calls.
For the union to decertify, 30 percent of its members — approximately 130 players — would need to sign a petition in order to have a formal vote on decertication. The National Labor Relations Board would then have 45 days to decide whether a vote should be held. A majority vote of the league’s 450 or so players is all that would be needed to follow through with the process.
Fisher and Hunter have been against decertification, using the failed attempt by the NFL players’ union earlier this year as an example of how that strategy doesn’t work. But the decertification movement is believed to be done outside the union. It would result in an antitrust lawsuit in federal court that could take months to get resolved – and result in losing the entire 2011-12 season. In anticipation of a move toward decertification, the NBA threatened to file a federal lawsuit in August that would void all player contracts in that situation.
Agents Mark Bartelstein, Bill Duffy, Dan Fegan, Leon Rose, Jeff Schwartz, Arn Tellem and Henry Thomas have pushed for decertification for several months. The decertication threat could be a negotiating tactic to create some leverage in the next round of negotiations and force NBA owners to soften some of their stances.
The league has been pushing for a 50-50 split of revenues, but the union doesn’t want to accept anything less than 52 percent of all basketball-related income. Players have come down from 57 percent in the previous deal, and Hunter doesn’t believe that a 50-50 split is fair.
“My position is I don’t think there should ever be a circumstance where owners make the same or more than the players,” Hunter told reporters in New York.
More games are expected to be eliminated if nothing is settled in the next week.