The NBA filed two claims against the NBAPA on Tuesday— an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board and a lawsuit in federal district court in New York.
The NBA accused the players of being uncooperative in negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement by making “more than two dozen” threats to dissolve their union and sue the league under antitrust laws to secure more favorable terms in a new CBA.
The problem, for NBA players, is that NBA owners are far smarter — and far more united — than they are. The owners only number 29 (the NBA owns the New Orleans Hornets) while there are between 400 and 500 players. And despite the logic of the above, the case against the owners is a more intricate one than any case against the players, especially when those players are prone to regrettable comments in interviews (recall Latrell Sprewell’s infamous remarks about his inability to “feed his family” on $7 million per year) and to spending sprees that leave their financial cushions far thinner than seems possible (the 1998 lockout is rumored to have ended mainly because players were running out of money).
The reason for the union finally scheduling a meeting with the owners on Monday in New York City is simple: Union officials are trying to convince the players they’re doing something, but it’s worthless. This is a show. There’s nothing to negotiate, nothing to discuss. The NBA commissioner has made sure of it. Stern promised a new crop of owners that should they buy into the NBA, he’d give them the most one-sided labor deal in the history of sports. No fan has sympathy for these two sides, nor should they. Just understand this, though: When the NBA goes silent for a full year following a most wildly successful season, Stern will deserve full blame for the sport’s shutdown.
The simple answer is GREED. The league monkeys with its revenue numbers and its expenses to show less income, the teams spend irresponsibly and at the end of the day they’re asking the kids to make up the difference. As a result, the Players Association is threatening to de-certify the union as a means of forcing the lockout to end, the league has now filed an unfair labor practice suit against the Players Association, and it will only get uglier from here.
Both sides have embarrassed themselves, over and over. Both have clear motives, but they also have clear resolutions for the good of the game that they refuse to give into. The difference now is that the NBAPA — representing a constituency that can go 450 strong — hasn’t done much following the veiled threats and wordplay. The NBA owners, 29 strong, can focus their attack and steel themselves properly.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com) and is the co-host of the ESPN1080.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).