To those who have been following the NBA lockout it comes as no surprise that the league has postponed training camps indefinitely and has cancelled over 40 preseason games. Now reports indicate that the NBPA is considering decertifying its union. Earlier this year the NFLPA decertified and shortly thereafter the two sides reached a new labor agreement. With the NBPA considering a similar tactic it raises a couple questions: What exactly is decertification? And what could it mean to NBA negotiations?
Decertification is essentially the disbanding of the Union. If there is no Union then the CBA no longer applies. When the CBA no longer applies, then the antitrust violations in the CBA come into play and the players can sue the league for those violations. The Union essentially exchanges its rights under labor law for the opportunity to take their chances in the courts under antitrust law. This is why we saw Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and others sue the owners in a class-action claim shortly after the NFLPA decertified. The Union hopes that the threat of significant monetary damages will compel league owners to make concessions to get something done. However, the NBA is not in the same position as the NFL so there is no guarantee that decertification will result in a new labor deal. In fact, sources say that expectations are low that antitrust suits would be successful or provide much in the way of bargaining leverage for the NBA players.
One thing is clear; the NBA lockout has little in common with the NFL lockout. There is no doubt that NFL teams are profitable. NBA owners on the other hand have claimed as much as $340 million in losses. While their numbers may be slightly exaggerated, the fact still remains that many NBA franchises are operating at a loss. So it isn’t hard to see why there isn’t much incentive for owners to make compromises to accelerate the negotiation process and preserve another season in which they will lose more money.
Meanwhile, the players also appear to lack any sense of urgency to reach an agreement. Their willingness to let labor talks drag on is evidenced by Clippers forward Blake Griffin interning for the Will Ferrell-Adam McKay comedy website Funny Or Die, Lakers forward Luke Walton taking a job as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis and Deron Williams and 50 other players heading overseas to play basketball. There are also rumors that Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant are mulling over foreign options. This can’t be a good sign.
Forgotten in the midst of stalled negotiations is the fan’s perspective. Maybe that’s because unlike the NFL lockout, NBA fans seem to be taking the work stoppage in stride. ESPN columnist Bill Simmons recently tweeted, “Diff between NBA lockout and NFL lockout: fans would have flipped out if we even missed ONE week of football. Not true for hoops. At all.” He’s right. There hasn’t been the same public uproar over the NBA lockout. Obviously the NBA cannot compete with the NFL’s popularity but it only makes matters worse when millionaires are fighting with millionaires over money and neither side appears interested in resolving the problems.
As for now there is no end in sight and it doesn’t seem like a move by the NBPA to decertify will change much. So while many are asking when the two sides will reach an agreement, perhaps the more pertinent question is does anybody care.