As many as 50 disgruntled NBA players – including several All-Stars – participated in a clandestine conference call with a top antitrust attorney on Thursday to discuss the process of decertifying the Players Association, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Angry with the concessions already made to the owners and fearful of worse ones coming with the completion of a new collective bargaining agreement, the players could push for a scenario that throws negotiations into chaos and could eventually lead to the loss of the 2011-12 season. Paul Pierce(notes) played a prominent role on both calls, leading the charge on decertification, sources said. Participants in Thursday's call included Dwyane Wade(notes), Jason Kidd(notes), Blake Griffin(notes), Al Horford(notes), Tyson Chandler(notes), Spencer Hawes(notes) and DeAndre Jordan(notes), sources said.
The players, frustrated with the deal union officials have been negotiating, held a call on Tuesday to discuss the state of labor talks with the NBA, and explored their options on Thursday with the antitrust attorney, sources said.
Said one player on the calls: "If nothing else, this takes us off our heels."
Several prominent NBA agents were proponents of the calls, sources said.
Unless the Players Association refused to go lower than a 52-48 percent revenue split with the NBA and the remaining system issues went in the union’s favor, sources said there was broad agreement among the players on the call that the next step should be a serious consideration of decertifying the union and filing an antitrust suit in federal court.
“We’re beyond frustrated with the concessions that have already been made,” one source on the calls said. “If the union gives in on the [basketball-related income] split and the open system issues don’t go to the players side, decertification may be the next step.”
Thirty percent of the union members would need to sign a petition to force a vote on decertification. A majority vote could then dissolve the union.
The NBA and the Players Association have scheduled a Saturday bargaining session to try and restart talks toward ending the four-month NBA lockout that’s already cost the league an entire month of games.
[Related: Locked-out NBA players returning to college]
NBA owners have publicly and privately insisted they will not go beyond a 50-50 revenue split with the players. Many hardline owners are pushing NBA commissioner David Stern to lower the offer below 50 percent, sources said, but Stern knows doing so would make it extremely hard to get a deal done.
Part of the strategy by the agents and players isn’t just the act of decertification, but using the threat of it to gain leverage with the owners.
"This is not about Hunter and Fisher," a source on the calls said. "The players want to know how to push the needle here. If talks this weekend don't produce 52 percent, they want to know what options they have."
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