NBA players meet to discuss options

NEW YORK (AP) — Should the NBA players union stay the course and continue to resist a bad deal? Or would the best move be to decertify the union and try to beat the owners in a long, dragged-out court fight?
That was the question to be debated Wednesday in Las Vegas at a meeting of the player agents’ advisory council.
On Thursday, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone are among those expected in attendance at Caesar’s Palace as the union holds a meeting open to all players.
Commissioner David Stern and the owners, meanwhile, would prefer to be back at the bargaining table.
“I can tell you,” Stern said. “This union leadership stymies us. Russ (Granik, deputy commissioner) and I, for something over 50 years combined, we’ve been able to negotiate with every other combination of executive directors and presidents in the history of this union. And lawyers. And somehow, we are unable to have a conversation that gets us any negotiation.”
One day after the union lost its guaranteed contracts arbitration grievance before arbitrator John Feerick, there was an internal debate as to what’s the next best course of action.
Some thought the wisest move would be to continue to present a unified front and resist accepting a bad deal — even if the lockout lasts into January.
Others, including a vocal minority of the agents’ council, were pushing for decertification, a move that could lead to a multiyear fight with the owners.
Players earlier this summer gave the union’s executive council the go-ahead to decertify, so a vote among the rank-and-file would not be necessary.
“The players will not back down,” union director Billy Hunter said. “The sooner the owners realize this and end the lockout, the quicker we can avoid enormous damage to the sport of basketball.”
By decertifying, the union would remove itself as the official bargaining agent for the players. A court injunction would then be sought to end the lockout.
If an injunction was granted, the owners would lift the lockout, open camps and impose new work rules. And if the new rules were more restrictive than the old ones, the players would be expected to file an antitrust suit against the league seeking treble damages.
NFL players opted for the decertification route after their strike failed in 1987, and their court fight with NFL owners dragged on for five years before a settlement was reached.
NBA players who currently have long-term contracts might benefit from a decertification move, since they would immediately start collecting their salaries. But current free agents and players who have been in the league less that three years would be hurt because they would be forced to sign under the rules of a new system and then would have to wait several years to find out if they would win damages.
Stern and the owners are well aware that the union has been considering decertification, and some agents believe the league fears being taken to court on antitrust charges.
“Unfair labor practice charges, arbitration, decertification, antitrust suits don’t get it done,” Stern said. “This (Monday’s arbitration ruling) should have been a signal that we return to the table today. Instead, the players are being told by their union to miss another week of work.”
Stern sent a letter to Hunter on Monday outlining the league’s proposals and asking that Hunter pass it along to each of the players.
There is nothing in the letter, a union official said, that would spur formal bargaining talks to resume until next week at the earliest. The owners’ negotiating committee will be New York next Tuesday for a status update.