Nov 14, 2011, 3:21 PM EST
The last time the NBA had a work stoppage, the deal to resume play wasn’t struck until January of that year—a full three months into what would have been the normal season. As the date currently reads November 14, it remains early to go into full-on panic mode.
Wait, you mean the union actually wants to decertify?
Alright, nevermind. Forget it. We’re all screwed.
If you were wondering what exactly defined “worst case scenario” when it comes to the NBA’s ongoing lockout…well, here you go. This is honestly like the NFL’s bastard little brother of labor strife. Whereas the NFLPA filed for legal relief even before their CBA expired and the league as a whole resolved its labor dispute after just 136 days, the NBA players are opting to file suit on day No. 137 of their own lockout. See, we’re hitting a lot of the same notes, but at literally all of the wrong times.
Since we last left you with the idea that the clock was ticking down on the players’ opportunity to keep these negotiations working in their financial favor, the union has rejected two consecutive proposals from the owners and is now, believe it or not, moving to dissolve itself.
The abandonment of its status as a union no longer makes the negotiations a collective bargaining dispute, and, instead, potentially makes the lockout a legitimate illegality. Once the union officially disbands, it will move to take legal action against the league—the benefit and, really, entire point of decertification in the first place.
The idea, in the minds of the players, is that the NBA is in violation of federal anti-trust law. The probable counter, in the minds of the owners, is that the players are now negotiating in bad faith and that their decertification is an unfair bargaining tactic that should summarily dismissed as such.
Which side is right? Well, neither really. All four major sporting leagues are in clear and flagrant violation of federal anti-trust laws, but have never been taken to task for it. The courts simply look the other way and more or less consider the leagues as special entities that—for reasons that are never fully stipulated—fall outside the scope of the legislation on the books.
Knowing this exemption is rather bewildering and potentially tenuous, the players are hoping to the blackmail the owners into a deal that’s more to the former’s liking before a court could ever rule on the league’s legal status.
This, as you might unsurprised to hear, would take an absurdly long time to ever reach a definitive end. More than anything, the players have just made the proceedings even more bitter than before by walking away and opening up a lawsuit.
Whoever their legal team is should have hopefully advised the players that this maneuver will have very little effect on how the CBA ultimately settles. The lawyers will do their best to once again show that a professional sporting entity is in indisputable violation of the law. But that claim will once again be disputed. And the result will be appealed. And appealed again. And possibly remanded at some point. Then possibly appealed again. And, all the while, we will not have basketball.
Decertification is a tactic—not an end. It serves a purpose, but it will not get the players back on the floor any faster, unless both parties realize that the threat of a legal ruling is greater than whatever feelings are hurt via compromise. Indeed, if they perceive the move to the courts to be anything less than a tactic—i.e. a legitimate resolution to the lockout—then you can kiss the season goodbye.
Now, when I wrote up top that “we’re all screwed,” it was intended to convey that a solely legal course would indeed doom the season. That said, there’s nothing that prevents the sides from continuing to negotiate. Indeed, this extra ax swinging over their heads might even result in a fairer and quicker deal. So, it isn’t over. It shouldn’t be over. Nothing about what happened today dictates that it’s over. Now, we just have to hope that both sides are actually of that same mindset.
For the record, I know “most of you” really “don’t care” about all of this, but there’s like seven of us who are still into the NBA; so, you’ll have to pardon me for—in no way forcibly—interrupting your lives with these occasional updates. If it makes you any happier, the prospect of even discussing this matter as related to antitrust action has me “listening to The Cure a lot.”
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