Berger: Players File Antitrust Complaints Against NBA In California, Minnesota

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that members of the artists formerly known as the National Basketball Players Association have filed or plan to file antitrust complaints against the NBA in California and Minnesota on Tuesday.

Players named as plaintiffs in the California case include New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Knicks guard Chauncey Billups, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, San Antonio Spurs rookie forward Kawhi Leonard and free agent forward Leon Powe. 

Players named as plaintiffs in the Minnesota case include free agent forward Caron Butler, Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver and Minnesota Timberwolves rookie forward Derrick Williams.

Tolliver was briefly a member of the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2009-2010 season. He didn't know that former Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley was left-handed, got burned off the dribble twice in a row and Blazers coach Nate McMillan took the appropriate steps to ensure that he was never heard from again. 

The Minnesota complaint can be read here in PDF form via CBSSports.com. All 30 NBA teams, including the Blazers, are named as defendants in the filing. An excerpt...

Despite being informed of the above disclaimer of collective bargaining status by the NBPA, the NBA Defendants have made it clear that they intend to continue their group boycott of plaintiffs and all other NBA players and will not cease this boycott until the players agree to a new set of anticompetitive restraints and massive roll back in their salaries. This conduct now constitutes ablatant violation of the antitrust
laws.

The legal complaints come one day after the NBPA issued a disclaimer of interest after rejecting the NBA's latest proposal and on the same day the NBA officially cancelled all games through Dec. 15

Zach Lowe of SI.com has the NBA's official response via spokesperson Tim Frank to the antitrust lawsuits.

"We haven't seen Mr. Boies complaint yet but it's a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate. They warned us from the early days of these negotiations that they would sue us if we didn't satisfy them at the bargaining table, and they appear to have followed through on their threats."    

Ross Siler, former beat writer for the Salt Lake Tribune and current law school student, offers the following thoughts...
Read the brief in the Minnesota suit. Continue to think we're a lot closer to impasse than complete breakdown of collective bargaining.

Players emphasize that NBA has made clear since at least 2009 that it is seeking a "massive reduction" in player salaries. Players also emphasize that they've negotiated for 20 months unsuccessfully and NBA put a take-it-or-leave-it offer on table. The players are trying to lay the groundwork for a court to find that a complete breakdown of collective bargaining has happened.

The NBA will argue the other side, that this is the hard bargaining and tough negotiating that happens all the time in other industries. We don't want to let unions disclaim interest as if it's an "on/off switch" (and they will use that line) because it creates uncertainty. Antitrust suits are really important, and as a result, we don't want to just let people use them for purely tactical bargaining reasons.
Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com writes that David Boies, the new counsel for the players, had some tough words for the NBA.

"I will give the devil their due. They did a terrific job of holding a hard line and making the players make concession after concession after concession," Boies said. "Greed is not only a terrible thing but a dangerous thing, and they are overplaying their hand by pushing the players beyond any line of reasonableness."

Berger also reports that a judge could order mandatory, non-binding federal mediation to help resolve the ongoing labor negotiations.

This post will update.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com  | Twitter

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