NEW YORK — NBA players rejected the league's latest offer Monday and began disbanding the union, likely jeopardizing the season.
“We're prepared to file this antitrust action against the NBA,” union executive director Billy Hunter said. “That's the best situation where players can get their due process.”
He said players were not prepared to accept the NBA Commissioner David Stern's ultimatum, saying they thought it was “extremely unfair.”
Stern had urged players to take the deal on the table, saying it's the best the NBA can offer and warned that decertification is not a winning strategy.
“This is the best decision for the players,” union president Derek Fisher said. “I want to reiterate that point, that a lot of individual players have a lot of things personally at stake in terms of their careers and where they stand. And right now they feel it's important — we all feel it's important to all our players, not just the ones in this room, but our entire group — that we not only try to get a deal done for today but for the body of NBA players that will come into this league over the next decade and beyond.”
Fisher, flanked at a press conference by dozens of players including Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, said the decision was unanimous.
Hunter said the NBPA was in the process of converting to a trade association and that all players will be represented in a class-action suit against the NBA by attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and David Boies — who were on opposite sides of the NFL labor dispute, Kessler working for the players, Boies for the league.
“We think that we've got a stellar team,” said Hunter, who added that Kessler and Boies may file their suit as early as later Monday and likely “sometime within the next two days.”
Hunter said the NBPA's “notice of disclaimer” was filed with Stern's office about an hour before the news conference announcing the move.
Over the weekend, Stern said he would not cancel the season this week.
Regardless, damage has already been done, in many ways.
Financially, both sides have lost hundreds of millions because of the games missed and the countless more that will be wiped out before play resumes. Team employees are losing money, and in some cases, jobs. And both the NBA and NBPA eventually must regain the loyalty of an angered fan base that wonders how the league reached this low point after such a strong 2010-11 season.
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STATEMENT FROM NBA COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN
“At a bargaining session in February 2010, Jeffrey Kessler, counsel for the union, threatened that the players would abandon the collective bargaining process and start an antitrust lawsuit against our teams if they did not get a bargaining resolution that was acceptable to them.
“In anticipation of this day, the NBA filed an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board asserting that, by virtue of its continued threats, the union was not bargaining in good faith. We also began a litigation in federal court in anticipation of this same bargaining tactic.
“The NBA has negotiated in good faith throughout the collective bargaining process, but -- because our revised bargaining proposal was not to its liking – the union has decided to make good on Mr. Kessler’s threat.
“There will ultimately be a new collective bargaining agreement, but the 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy.”