“We’re prepared to file this antitrust action against the NBA,” Billy Hunter, now the executive director of the NBA players trade association, said of the labor dispute that began with a lockout of players July 1. “That’s the best situation where players can get their due process.”
Players will not accept an offer that they regarded as an ultimatum from Commissioner David Stern, with Hunter calling it “extremely unfair.”
In an ESPN interview, Stern promised “guaranteed years of litigation” and said, “we’re about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA.”
“Billy Hunter has decided to put the season in jeopardy and deprive his players of an enormous payday,” Stern said on ESPN.
Hunter made his comments at a press conference in New York that was attended by union president Derek Fisher as well as a group of players that included Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo and Elton Brand. Fisher said the vote, by a show of hands of about 50 players present, was unanimous.
Stern had urged players to accept the current proposal that calls for a 50-50 division of basketball-related income and proposed a 72-game season beginning Dec. 15.
“We were very close,” Stern said, “and they decided to blow it up.”
As for whether more games and perhaps the season will soon be canceled, Stern said: “The calendar takes care of it by itself. We’re not going to start idle threats.”
Players, meanwhile, now begin losing paychecks. “The chances of the season slipping away from us,” Stern said, “and the players losing all that they’ve worked very hard to achieve...I think it’s a tragedy.”
Saying he was “saddened,” and that he believes players are “badly misled” and “hellbent on self-destruction,” Stern was asked again about the season.
“Our fans are very smart. They can look at the calendar. We need a deal 30 days before we start. And now there’s no one to negotiate with.”