Players reject offer, NBA season in jeopardy

Players union executive director Billy Hunter: "We have arrived at the conclusion that the collective-bargaining agreement has completely broken down." Union president Derek Fisher (left) said, "This is the best decision for the players."
Players union executive director Billy Hunter: "We have arrived at the conclusion that the collective-bargaining agreement has completely broken down." Union president Derek Fisher (left) said, "This is the best decision for the players." (SETH WENIG / Associated Press)
Posted: November 15, 2011

NEW YORK - The 2011-12 NBA season is in jeopardy.

Although the season has been in doubt since the NBA locked out its 450 players on July 1, the National Basketball Players Association rejected the league's "final" proposal on Monday afternoon and announced it was dissolving the union in favor of legal action.

The union's actions Monday, spurred by the NBA's proposal, significantly increased the possibility that there will be no 2011-12 season.

"We have arrived at the conclusion that the collective-bargaining agreement has completely broken down," union chief Billy Hunter said.

Hunter now becomes executive director of the National Basketball Players Trade Association.

"We can't continue," union president Derek Fisher said. "This is where it stops for us as a union."

NBA commissioner David Stern appeared on ESPN's SportsCenter immediately after the union's announcement. He called the union's disclaimer a "magic trick" that's "not going to work" and said the union seems "hell-bent on self-destruction."

In a formal statement issued later, Stern said, "There will ultimately be a new collective-bargaining agreement, but the 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy."

Stern also said the NBA believes that the union's decision to dissolve is a tactical decision designed to gain leverage. He pointed out that the union threatened this move months ago.

The National Basketball Players Association said it reached the decision to dissolve - essentially taking this battle to the courts - after outlining the NBA's latest proposal to the league's 30 player representatives. The players decided the NBA was not bargaining in good faith, Hunter said, and the decision to reject the proposal was unanimous among the players.

"This is the best decision for the players," said Fisher, surrounded by dozens of NBA players. "I want to reiterate that point that a lot of individual players have a lot of things personally at stake in terms of their careers and where they stand. Right now, they feel it's important - we all feel it's important to all our players, not just the ones in this room, but our entire group - that we not only try to get a deal done for today but for the body of NBA players that will come into this league over the next decade and beyond."

Hunter announced that union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler and David Boies, the prominent lawyer who represented the NFL against the NFL players earlier this year, would take the reins moving forward.

Boies later told ESPN that they had not yet decided whether to file an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA. First they will discuss their options.

"I would hope that in the face of a disclaiming union, where there's no hope of collective bargaining, that the owners would reconsider whether, under these circumstances, it makes sense to continue to boycott," Boies told ESPN. "But I have no idea what their strategy is."


Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at kfagan@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @DeepSixer3, and read her blog, "Deep Sixer," on Philly.com

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