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SELECT NBA PLAYERS FILE ANTITRUST SUIT AGAINST LEAGUE
Published June 29, 1995
Several NBA stars, including Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, filed an antitrust suit against the NBA Wednesday, "seeking to keep the league from imposing a system they called unfair to players or from using a lockout against players," according to John Helyar in this morning's WALL STREET JOURNAL. The suit was filed in the same Minneapolis federal court by the "same team of lawyers" who represented NFL players in a '92 suit against that league. Helyar notes, "That case brought major changes to the NFL's free agency system, and this one throws a monkey wrench into the NBA's already turbulent and unresolved negotiations for a new labor contract." The suit holds that after the July 1 expiration of the no-strike/no-lockout moratorium, the NBA plans to do one of three things: impose a lockout, impose the system tentatively agreed upon, or continue with the current system. Jeffrey Kessler, attorney for the dissenting players: "We believe any one of those things could be considered unreasonable restrictions under the antitrust laws" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/29). SUPERSTARS HELPING OTHERS: The players "tried to portray this as something other than a revolt against" NBPA Exec Dir Simon Gourdine. Jordan: "We would love for the [NBPA] to join in and stand firm with us, because we fell this is an opportunity for us to get our fair deal" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/29). Jordan: "We'll never get our net worth, but others can" (Greg Boeck, USA TODAY, 6/29). JUST A FORMALITY? Also yesterday, Kessler delivered 180 decertification petitions to the NBA and the NBPA, which he cited as evidence the NBPA no longer has authority as the players' collective bargaining agent. According to Jackie MacMullan, Kessler said "that since the union was never certified to begin with, the decertification process isn't really necessary, but 'if the Players Association insists on an election, we'll have one'" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/29). UNION REAX: Gourdine: "We believe these notices and the lawsuit have no effect whatsoever on our continued negotiations with the NBA" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/29). LEAGUE REAX: NBA Commissioner David Stern: "What I would gather from it is the agents running into court so they can subvert the very process they put into effect. I don't understand what their intent exactly is" (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 6/29). NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik: "We're not really that worried about the antitrust suit because there's hardly a negotiating year that goes by without somebody filing an antitrust suit against us. What really bothers us is the move to decertify" (Lacy Banks, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/29). Granik was interviewed pre-draft, which TNT's Ernie Johnson opened by saying, "There are some clouds on the NBA horizon." Granik called the suit "kind of a nuisance and I think perhaps reflects the fact that they don't have the support that they say they have when it comes to an election in front of the NLRB." Granik said there is a "real risk" of the season not starting on time and that the players face a "difficult decision": "Either they want to join with these agents who seem intent on overturning the entire business, or they have to decide that the partnership has been pretty good for everybody for the last ten years. If they go with the former, then I think we are very much in risk of loosing a significant part or maybe all of next season" (TNT, 6/28). TWO VIEWS: John Salley, who served as Heat player rep and expects to do the same for the Raptors, was "very critical" of those filing suit. Salley, to Lacy Banks of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: "We don't need this dissension from those guys trying to show their power against us. It's like the house negro against the field negro, and you can quote me" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/29). Danny Ainge: "Everything I've heard is the players felt like they were being rushed through the agreement. The owners voted it unanimously, the players were out playing golf all over the country, and they couldn't get together on a deal. So I think that from a leverage standpoint, they've decided to decertify and sue under the same conditions they tried when they had the union in order." Ainge did say the NBA was "at its peak" and was hopeful both sides won't "walk away" (TNT, 6/28).