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NBA lockout: Five things to note about players' antitrust lawsuit

Derek Fisher

1. Players union, owners could face lengthy court case. After the union disbanded, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and a handful of other players filed two antitrust lawsuits in Oakland and Minneapolis, accusing the NBA of conspiring to "boycott players" in attempting to get them to accept a poor labor deal. The Times' Mike Bresnahan talked to legal experts who believed that, regardless of the outcome, the court case will prove to be a drawn-out process. With the NBA already canceling games through Dec. 15, it's likely more cancellations will come.

2. Move could give players some leverage. One agent told me the union's disbandment and ensuing lawsuits, in effect, called David Stern's bluff and will intimidate owners into becoming more reasonable over a deal. There's mixed history on whether such a best-case scenario will occur. Similar moves by the NFL players' union largely contributed to both sides reaching a deal in time for the season. But the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that the lockout should be lifted, saying the antitrust lawsuit brought by the players was a labor issue and not an antitrust case. When the NBA players union threatened decertification in 1995, they soon voted against the move since owners withdrew certain restrictions against free agency.

3. The players will soon seek damages. The next step involves filing a motion for summary judgment, asking for three times the amount of salary players lose during the lockout. CBSSports.com's Ken Berger estimates that reaches $2 billion in two months. That's because the lawsuit alleges the owners hatched their bargaining strategy in June 2007 when they demanded the players union reduce their basketball-related income percentage from 57% to 50%. 

4. Disbandment is an expedited version of decertification. That process would have would have required a player petition and then a player vote mandated by the National Labor Relations Board. Reaching the court system alone would take anywhere from 45 to 60 days. The union's disbandment through "disclaimer of interest" allowed them to sue the NBA immediately. 

5. Derek Fisher no longer has a direct role with negotiations. While Fisher perhaps has more time to rest and workout, executive director Billy Hunter becomes a member of the players' legal team. There he joins union attorney Jeffrey Kessler and litigator David Boies. Boies represented Al Gore after the 2000 U.S. presidential election, the U.S. Department of Justice against Microsoft in a 1998 antitrust lawsuit and the NFL owners this year in the league's antitrust lawsuit. 

 RELATED:

Uninformed players should blame themselves

Union disbanding seriously jeopardizes 2011-12 season

Story lines Lakers will miss in early December

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, left, president of the NBA players' union, speaks during a news conference with union executive director Billy Hunter. Some players are pursuing antitrust lawsuits against the NBA. Credit: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images

 
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