Players might not wait to decertify

Players might not wait to decertify
November 12, 2011, 5:51 pm
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There's a growing number of NBA players who may not wait until next week's meeting between the NBA Players Associations player representatives and the NBAPA executive committee, to officially start the decertification process.

With word that the union will likely turn down the NBA's most recent offer, those who have been pushing for the union to decertify - Boston's Paul Pierce has been one of the leaders of that movement - have stepped up their efforts in the last 48 hours, sources say.

In fact, there is a very strong possibility they will officially kick off the decertification process as early as Monday, which according to the New York Post, is when the player representatives and NBAPA executives will meet.

"We're just trying to make sure we have everything in order for when the time comes to get this rolling," one source said on Saturday.

Earlier this week, NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter said he was told that individuals within the union who were looking into decertification were fairly close to having enough signatures to set up an election to decertify the union.

"We know there are close to 200 players who are apparently in the process of signing these de-cert decertification cards," Billy Hunter told NBA-TV on Tuesday. "In my discussions with Paul Pierce, he had indicated that they already had in excess of 100, 130 guys so he represented as signed cards. I don't know if that's true or not."

Hunter has maintained throughout the decertification talk that he has not been pushing for it, and added that there has been very little talk about it.

"This is something that players are doing of their own volition, probably at the insistence of their agents," Hunter said.

Indeed, a number of prominent agents have been calling for the union to decertify for weeks.

That number, along with the number of players, has grown considerably since the last round of talks broke off Thursday.

While the union acknowledged that the NBA's "revised" proposal is an improvement of sorts on the previous one, they didn't make nearly as many concessions or compromises with the new offer to make it one that the union's executive committee felt was good enough to bring to their membership to vote on.

"I can't characterize whether they showed flexibility in certain system issues," said Derek Fisher, president of the NBAPA. "We'd have a deal done if the right flexibility was being shown. The fact that we don't have a deal lets you know that there's still a lot of work to be done on the system."

That's why the player representatives from all 30 teams will be in New York on Monday to discuss this most recent offer, and decide if it warrants presenting to their membership to be voted upon.

A number of player representatives have already indicated that the current offer on the table, is not one that they would be willing to accept.

But the players understand that right now, it's not like they have a lot of options to choose from. Which is why decertification is very much something they are giving serious thought to pursuing more vigorously.

The decertification process doesn't officially begin until at least 30 percent of the players sign a petition indicating they no longer want the NBAPA to represent them. From there, the petition is filed with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB is an independent agency of the federal government, designed to conduct elections on labor union representation. The NLRB is also presiding over the unfair labor practice charges filed by both the NBA and the NBAPA against one another.

After the NLRB verifies the authenticity of the petitions, an election can take place.

However, there's a 45-60 day window after the petitions are verified, before an election can be conducted. Within that period of time, the union can still negotiate with the owners.

But there's a chance that even with the necessary signatures, the union might not be allowed to be broken up.

Because the NLRB hasn't ruled on the unfair labor practice charges, there's a good chance they will be reluctant to allow the union to dissolve until that legal matter is sorted out.

The union can also file what is known as a "disclaimer of interest," which could essentially speed up the decertification process for the union.

Hunter would need to send a letter to NBA commissioner David Stern indicating that the NBAPA no longer exists as the representative for the players in regards to bargaining for a new deal.

For players, the advantage to this course of action would be that they wouldn't have to wait the 45-60 days for the NLRB to authorize an election to dissolve the union. Players could immediately pursue anti-trust lawsuits against the NBA.

Regardless of which approach the players decide to pursue, they need to do something quickly if they are to have any hope of salvaging what's left of the 2011-12 season.

After announcing the "revised" offer to the union on Thursday, Stern also highlighted that an agreed-upon deal soon would result in a 72-game season beginning on Dec. 15. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the new NBA schedule, with a Dec. 15 start date, has already been worked out, adding that the season would be extended by one week, along with the playoffs.

But if the union turns this offer down, Stern once again said the owners would continue to negotiate but would do so from a position that the union wouldn't like. The NHL-style flex cap will be back on the table, as well as a 53-47 split of the basketball-related income - in favor of the owners - as well as salary rollbacks, will be back in play.

Stern made a similar promise recently, only to return to the bargaining table with the union and ultimately adjust their last offer to what it is currently.

But looking at the calendar, it's hard to imagine the NBA will change its stance now.

Especially when you consider the starting point the league wants, is a lot closer to the NHL-model that will be their negotiating starting point, if their current offer is rejected.

"We have made our revised proposal, and we're not planning to make another one," Stern said. "There's really nothing left to negotiate about."