SELECT NBA PLAYERS FILE ANTITRUST SUIT AGAINST LEAGUE
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,