As agents pushing the decertification agenda furiously contacted their players to build up overwhelming support for the aggressive move to dissolve the NBA Players Association rather than accept the CBA proposal from the owners, commissioner David Stern went on ESPN's SportsCenter to get a message out to these agents.
Stern reiterated terms from a federal lawsuit the league filed in August, which asked the court to not only declare that the lockout does not violate antitrust laws, but also asked court to agree that if the union decertifies, all contracts that were agreed upon under the previous collective bargaining agreement would be voided.
Yes, voided. Meaning gone. Meaning 420 free agents. And zero percent commission.
"If the union is not in existence, neither are $4 billion worth of guaranteed contracts that were entered into on the condition that there is a union," Stern said in the interview.
He then called out the agents directly when he added: "So if the agents insist upon playing with fire, my guess is that they would get themselves burned."
The Norris-LaGuardia Act, which dates back to the Great Depression era, is designed to keep labor disputes out of the court system. This is what judges used to deny the NFL players' attempts at antitrust litigation against NFL owners after the NFLPA decertified last spring and it will likely be what the courts cite when the NBA players follow the same route.
But just the mess of it, the time it will cost to go through the process, is enough of a scare tactic that the players hope may motivate some owners to pressure others into improving their proposal. The players are furious that after two long days of negotiations, which came off the agreement to drop to a 50-50 split of BRI, the owners barely moved on requested adjustments to system issues -- restrictions on team spending and also on player movement via free agency -- that are completely unrelated to revenue and instead part of deputy commissioner Adam Silver's "competitive balance" campaign.
The union will present the offer to its 30 player reps -- and likely a host of other players -- at a meeting on Monday morning. From there the union will decide what to do next, with bringing the proposal to a membership vote as an option, but one that is decreasing as a popular choice.
While the meeting is going on, it is expected that a group of agents will take a petition to decertify to the National Labor Relations Board. The union could also surrender their leadership -- executive director Billy Hunter appears on his way out either way -- and speed up the process by declaring a Disclaimer of Interest, which would also dissolve the union but would not require a 30-percent vote to present to the NLRB.
Either way, this would begin the long and painful process that Stern suggests will produce one definitive result: "making it even more likely that there won't be a season."