SBD/Issue 57/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NBPA Files Unfair Labor Charges For Ball, Behavior Policy

Hunter Says New Basketball
Cutting Hands Of Players Like Kidd

The NBPA filed two “unfair labor practice charges” against the NBA with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Friday, asking the NLRB to “investigate what it said were the NBA’s unilateral actions” regarding the new synthetic ball and rules for on-court conduct, according to Liz Robbins of the N.Y. TIMES. The NBPA claims that it was “not informed beforehand of the changes.” NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said in a statement, “There is virtual unanimity amongst the players about their concerns and intense dislike for the new synthetic ball and the ‘zero tolerance’ policy.” NBA VP/Communications Tim Frank said the league is “reviewing the filing.” Robbins noted the NBPA’s claims “may be the union’s only course of action, a public way of appeasing its members in an area where [NBA] Commissioner David Stern seems to have broad powers” (N.Y. TIMES, 12/2).

BALL CAUSING CUTS: Hunter said that several players Shave told him the ball causes hand injuries.” Hunter: “They tell me when they handle the ball, it cuts their hands. Paper cuts. [Nets G] Jason Kidd told me he gets cuts every night.” Hunter added players “think zero tolerance is something to straitjacket them. ... I wonder if it’s an effort to move toward a system similar to the NFL where they brand the team rather than the player” (USA TODAY, 12/4). The AP’s Brian Mahoney reported while players are adjusting to the new ball, they are “having a much harder time with the crackdown on reactions after the whistle.” Through 225 games this season, there have been 175 unsportsmanlike technical foul calls, up from 120 through the same period last year. However, the total is “on par with the amount from two years ago” (AP, 12/1).

Does New Conduct Policy Qualify
As Unfair Labor Practice?
PLAYER REAX: Mavericks G Devean George said the NBA does not do “a very good job of warning us about changes. They don’t give us a fair share on rule changes. They just do it and say, ‘Here it is.’ Can’t we get some say-so?” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/2). Rockets F Juwan Howard, a former NBPA VP, said, “It’s good to see the union is taking a stand to look out for the players’ best interests. We all know a lot of players have been complaining about the ball and the referees’ reactions to some players’ emotions on the court.” Rockets F and player rep Chuck Hayes added, “Some things we’re going to have to live with, but we have to flex our power every now and then” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/4). Wizards G Antonio Daniels said, “The ball is the biggest issue because that was a strict power move. We had no say in the matter, and we’re the ones who have to go out and play with it” (WASHINGTON POST, 12/2). Mavericks G Jerry Stackhouse said of the conduct policy, “We’re not robots. ... Don’t penalize all 300 players because of four or five players and their antics” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/2). Jazz G and NBPA President Derek Fisher said, “I don’t think we ever will get to a place where we have a say in what [Stern] and owners would like to see put forth ... but we definitely would like a larger piece of input in terms of how those rules are laid down” (DESERET NEWS, 12/3).

COLUMNIST REAX: ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan wrote players complaining about the ball is a “good fight,” as there is “no language in the [CBA] dealing with the question of the type of ball used in NBA games.” However, Hunter “did himself a disservice here by lumping this battle in with the other battle over technical fouls. ... It’ll be a tough sell for them to make the case that the rules have been substantially changed to such a degree that it’s an unfair labor practice. The statistical evidence doesn’t back up their argument.” Sheridan: “One is a legitimate beef. The other is not” (ESPN.com, 12/1). In Houston, Jonathan Feigen wrote, “One would think the [NLRB] would have more important things to worry about than technical free throws or if the ball is slippery. ... But the NBA brought this on itself with its dismissive and belittling treatment of the players” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/3). In L.A., Mark Heisler wrote the claims amount “to a nuisance suit. The question is why [Stern], committed to showing ‘our players’ in their best light in his prized ‘NBA Cares’ campaign, keeps finding himself in long-running arguments with his players that undermine or cancel out the entire initiative” (L.A. TIMES, 12/3).

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