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Ball Don't Lie

The NBA is taking its players to court, claiming unfair labor practices

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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The NBA has returned fire. Actually, it preempted some potential fire with the first shot. The league has filed two unfair labor practice claims against the NBA Players Association, charging it with what the NBAPA threatened to do to the NBA for months. The NBA thinks the NBAPA is being uncooperative in negotiations, and they've taken it up with the National Labor Relations Board in the form of two legal claims.

And if you had any hope for the 2011-12 season to start on time, it's likely been blown to bits.

It's a fight against rhetoric, one would guess. The NBAPA, under influence from a small pack of influential player agents, has been threatening to dissolve and file the same sort of claim against the NBA for weeks -- while also refusing to budge on significant issues crucial to the forming of a new collective bargaining agreement. The NBA has done the same thing, failing to secure a meeting with its players during the entire month of July and refusing to move an inch during Monday's meeting with the players, all while releasing embarrassing admissions of huge revenue gains and pathetic profits to the press in a middling attempt to appear transparent.

Both sides have embarrassed themselves, over and over. Both have clear motives, but they also have clear resolutions for the good of the game that they refuse to give in to. The difference now is that the NBAPA -- representing a constituency that can go 450 strong -- hasn't done much following the veiled threats and wordplay. The NBA owners, 29 strong, can focus their attack and steel themselves properly.

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And, within the confines of these two filings, the NBA has done as much. It also preemptively saves the NBA's tail. From the Associated Press:

It seeks a declaration from the court that the lockout does not violate antitrust laws, in case the union breaks up to file an antitrust lawsuit. It also cites legal backing for the lockout itself, invoking Depression-era legislation known as the Norris-LaGuardia Act designed to prevent court intervention in a labor dispute.

This is likely in clear response to the NFL lockout, one that saw the NFL's player union decertify in order to file unfair labor practice suits against the NFL, leaving it up to an individual judge to rule against the NFL as he saw fit. It was a sound move; the judge in question didn't appreciate the way the NFL was acting in its own lockout, and said as much. It sped up the NFL's labor impasse and drew negative attention to a league that was making more money than ever while claiming massive losses.

Not unlike the NBA, which features a litany of combative owners who have to get their own collective house in order in terms of revenue sharing among large- and small-market teams. Especially before the league can (rightfully) take it to the players and secure a more even brand of revenue splitting between teams and their on-court employees. The NBA saw where the NFL "failed" (you know -- saving the season and coming up with a financial solution that made everyone happy while helping the U.S. economy create more jobs in one of its toughest eras in American history), and wanted to prevent such a slide.

Good for them. Those greedy men.

David Stern complained Monday that the players were "at the same place" that they were in late June, the last time the two sides met to discuss a new CBA. Well, yeah. That's sort of what happens when you leave someone at the same place for a month with no contact and no incentive to move. Complaining about a lack of substantive progress after a month-long wall of silence is a ridiculous tactic, but as has long been the case with Stern, he's been able to ably play the martyr card as he defends his 29 owners. You want a different place, David? Schedule a meeting for July 5, next time. Work for the good of the game. Try to give those arena ushers and hot dog venders 41 nights of work next year.

Instead, Stern and his owners took the month off, knowing that the players had no incentive to negotiate during that spell. The players showed the same abject lack of concern, and showed up with little to offer on Monday. And the owners, because intelligence and pettiness don't have to be mutually exclusive, beat the players to the punch with these unfair labor practice charges.

To which the rest of the world responds, "Don't you have to practice, first?"

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