Now it is on.
This morning the NBA lockout got a lot more ugly and a lot longer.
Tuesday morning the NBA owners took a pre-emptive strike against the players union decertifying — the path the NFL union took and one the NBA union was considering — by filing both a complaint against the union with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and filing a federal lawsuit against the union.
The complaint with the NLRB states that the union is not negotiating in good faith — the union has filed a similar complaint against the league and was waiting for the resolution of that before seriously talking decertification. The NBA’s complaint says the union is not bargaining in good faith “by virtue of its unlawful threats to commence a sham “decertification” and an antitrust lawsuit challenging the NBA’s lockout.”
The lawsuit is the real strike against decertification (where the players would disband the union then sue the league under anti-trust law). It seeks a ruling that the NBA’s lockout does not violate federal anti-trust laws and if the union were to decertify all existing player contracts would become void.
Also, by filing themselves the league gets to choose the venue — New York’s Second District, which has been favorable to the NBA in past rulings. The union, if it filed anti-trust suits, was expected to look for more liberal, labor-friendly courts.
“These claims were filed in an effort to eliminate the use of impermissible pressure tactics by the union which are impeding the parties’ ability to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Adam Silver said in a statement. “For the parties to reach agreement on a new CBA, the union must commit to the collective bargaining process fully and in good faith.”
Dragging the negotiations into federal court is not going to speed a resolution to the stalemate between the two sides. Maybe it puts pressure on the sides to sit down at the table and compromise, but right now neither side seems willing to give much and this isn’t going to speed things along.
This also may push the union to decertify sooner rather than later — it had been waiting to hear from the NLRB on its complaint, but that response wasn’t expected until the very end of this month, at best. Now they may go that route sooner, something pushed for by agents meeting with Billy Hunter recently.
All of that means things could drag out. It’s harder to see how an entire season can be salvaged now — unless you think both sides can solve all their differences in the next two months. The question is can any of the upcoming season be saved? I don’t know. I do know things just got real. And real ugly.