The lawsuit strategy chosen by NBA players union president Derek Fisher (left) and director Billy Hunter might actually re-start negotiations with the owners, says one legal observer.(Photo: Seth Wenig/AP)
It’s looking more and more like the 2011-12 NBA season will play out in a federal court rather than on a basketball court.
Players, including Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, filed class-action antitrust lawsuits against the league on Tuesday in at least two states. The players want treble damages — or triple the amount of the more than $2 billion they would have made under a full season for what they argue is irreparable harm by preventing them from playing in their "very short" NBA careers, writes the Associated Press.
With the union disbanded, the players have brought in antitrust attorney David Boies, who represented the NFL during its labor strife earlier this year, to take up their cause as they claim the lockout violates antitrust laws because it prevents players from going to work.
Many believe the players should have moved to decertify the union this summer in hopes of being able to salvage some of the season. But from the case Boies is laying out, giving commissioner David Stern more rope could perhaps work in the players’ favor.
Boies is banking on Stern’s recent ultimatum that players accept the owners offer or face a worse offer proves the bargaining process had already ended.
"If you're in a poker game, and you run a bluff, and the bluff works, you're a hero. If someone calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners overplayed their hand," Boies said to the media at the National Basketball Players' Association headquarters. "They did a terrific job of taking a very hard line and pushing the players to make concession after concession after concession, but greed is not only a terrible thing — it's a dangerous thing."
And now the owners are looking at the real possibility of losing billions of dollars more than they claim to have lost last season. The players could be short $2 billion if there is no season, but they stand to make $6 billion from the league if they win their lawsuit.
"We haven't seen Mr. Boies' complaint yet, but it's a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said in a statement. "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."
In the meantime, the NBA’s plan to cancel games through Dec. 15 means that now 324 games have been lost and counting.