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NBA players union criticizes league's 'litigation tactics'

August 2, 2011 | 12:25 pm

Derek Fisher, Theo Ratliff and NBA players union leader Billy Hunter This could get ugly.

The NBA Players Assn. on Tuesday issued a strongly worded statement criticizing the league for filing two claims against the union -- a charge of unfair labor practices before the National Labor Relations Board, and an antitrust lawsuit in federal district court in New York, an often NBA-friendly venue.

"The litigation tactics of the NBA today are just another example of their bad faith bargaining and we will seek the complete dismissal of the actions as they are totally without merit," NBAPA Executive Director Billy Hunter said in a statement. "The NBA Players Association has not made any decision to disclaim its role as the collective bargaining representative of the players and has been engaged in good faith bargaining with the NBA for over two years. We urge the NBA to engage with us at the bargaining table and to use more productively the short time we have left before the 2011-12 season is seriously jeopardized."

NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Adam Silver argued in a statement Tuesday that the league's claims were "filed in an effort to eliminate the use of impermissible pressure tactics by the union which are impeding the parties' ability to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement." He added, "For the parties to reach agreement on a new CBA, the union must commit to the collective bargaining process fully and in good faith."

It wasn't particularly a surprise that the league and the players union remain so far apart in agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement. They held their first negotiations Monday after the NBA lockout became official on July 1, and there appeared to be no agreement on any of the issues dividing them. The rhetoric then heated up, with NBA Commissioner David Stern arguing that the players union wasn't negotiating in good faith and acknowledging that he was not "optimistic" about "the players' willingness to engage in a serious way." In turn, Lakers guard and union President Derek Fisher argued that the league's proposal "makes it hard to believe" its officials are serious about reaching a deal. 

There are many issues to resolve.

Team owners want to cut player salaries from the 57% of basketball revenue in the last deal to about 45%, while players offered to take 54.3%, an offer Stern has said is "modest." The NBA says the league lost $340 million in the 2009-10 season and that 23 of 30 teams were unprofitable, but the union blames most of the problems on bad ownership decisions. The league also wants to reduce the size and length of players' guaranteed contracts, while the union opposes that.

The NBA's statement indicated that it believes that the federal lawsuit to establish a lockout does not violate federal antitrust laws, and that if a players union "decertification" were considered lawful, all existing player contracts would become void. Fisher has stated multiple times that the players union has no plans to decertify, adding that it is still waiting for the NLRB to act on a complaint the players filed in May alleging that the NBA did not bargain in good faith before the collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.


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-- Mark Medina

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Photo: NBA Players Assn. President Derek Fisher walks with union chief Billy Hunter, left, and Lakers teammate Theo Ratliff for a meeting with NBA leaders on Monday. Credit: Mary Altaffer / Associated Press