Legal Maneuvering May Put 2011-2012 NBA Season on Eternal Hold

Earlier this week, in anticipation of the August 1 meeting between the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), I asked “When Will NBA Basketball Return?” and expressed my optimism that once that meeting was over that we NBA fans would have a better idea of when the next NBA game would be played. Well three days after that meeting, we still have no idea when the 2011-2012 season might start or when the next meeting might take place. At this point, it honestly appears that it is highly unlikely that the season will start on November 1 as scheduled.

After Monday’s meeting, no progress was reported and David Stern accused the players of being unwilling “to engage in a serious way.” The next day the NBA took legal action against the NBPA. Tuesday, August 2, the league filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) claiming that the players are not negotiating in good faith. They also filed suit in federal court in an effort to establish that the lockout that the NBA imposed on its players does not violate antitrust laws. The lawsuit also asks that all existing player contracts be made void and unenforceable in the event that the union decertifies.

The league’s reasoning for this request is that every contract between a player and a team is a product of the old Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which was negotiated by the NBA and NBPA. Those contracts rely on CBA provisions and “are dependent on the continuation” of a collective bargaining relationship between the NBA and NBPA. The league argues that if the NBPA were to decertify, then the collective bargaining relationship would come to an end (since one of the parties to that relationship would no longer exist), and as a result player contracts, which are all dependent on the continuation of that relationship, “would be void and unenforceable as a matter of law.”

This is the first legal posturing attempted by either side since the lockout was imposed on July 1. However, if you recall, the players filed an unfair labor practice charge of their own back in May (which the NLRB has yet to rule on). Both sides have now engaged in legal maneuvering and appear to be digging their heels in.

My prior optimism is tempered by the reality that there may not be any further progress in these negotiations until there is a legal ruling or two. Given the fact that no progress has been made in over a month, not only do we not have a better idea of when the NBA season may begin, but we might have to resign ourselves to the possibility that the next NBA game may not be played until sometime in 2012.


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