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NBA lockout: Possible decertification threatens season

November 4, 2011 |  8:00 am

Derek Fisher

So much for all that talk of unity.

The public generally didn't believe it. A story from Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock reporting that National Basketball Players Assn. President Derek Fisher accepted a side deal with NBA Commissioner David Stern on a 50-50 split in basketball-related income set off a firestorm. Still, the players union attempted publicly to act like nothing was wrong. Fisher denied the premise through a letter to the union and even threatened legal action. Union Executive Director Billy Hunter also touted unity in a letter. And the two said after Thursday's union meeting that everyone remained strong in demanding a fairer collective bargaining agreement.

Behind the scenes, however, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski first reported that about 50 NBA players, including several All-Stars, participated in a clandestine conference call with a top antitrust attorney on Thursday to discuss the process of decertifying the players' union. In order for this to actually happen, 30% of the league's approximately 400 players need to sign a petition supporting it before moving to a vote, a process that could take at least two months.

Calls for decertification remain understandable because many top-level agents and  players feel the union has offered too many concessions. After all, the players union negotiated from 57% in basketball-related income all the way down to 52.5%.  Even though decertification allows players to sue the NBA under antitrust laws and possibly secure an injunction to end the lockout,  it's possible the move would also lead to an expensive and drawn-out legal case.

That means two possible scenarios: It could simply apply pressure on Fisher and Hunter not to make any further concessions in Saturday's meeting, and prompt owners to make a deal. Or this last-ditch effort would make a season cancellation inevitable in exchange for possible owner concessions, including filing antitrust lawsuits questioning the lockout's legality and seeking damages up to three times their salaries owed, as reported by Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick.

For better or worse, the negotiations just got uglier.


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--Mark Medina

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Photo: Derek Fisher, center, president of the NBA players union, is joined by union Executive Director Billy Hunter, right, and other NBA players during a news conference Sept. 15. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press