I’m not sure I hate David Stern, but I want to dropkick him in the face, five-star him in the gut, then kidney punch him until he cries uncle.
After yesterday’s collective bargaining negotiations, Stern took the labor battle public.
“I don’t feel optimistic about the players’ willingness to engage in a serious way,” he said. Then, when asked whether the players were negotiating in good faith, Stern continued, “I would say not. Thank you.”
Today, Stern took the battle to the courts. (NBA.com)
The NBA filed two claims today against the National Basketball Players Association: an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board, and a lawsuit in federal district court in New York.
The unfair labor practice charge asserts that the Players Association has failed to bargain in good faith by virtue of its unlawful threats to commence a sham “decertification” and an antitrust lawsuit challenging the NBA’s lockout.
The federal lawsuit seeks to establish, among other things, that the NBA’s lockout does not violate federal antitrust laws and that if the Players Association’s “decertification” were found to be lawful, all existing player contracts would become void and unenforceable.
“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. “For the parties to reach agreement on a new CBA, the union must commit to the collective bargaining process fully and in good faith.”
Before the lawsuits were filed, Tom Ziller discussed good faith bargaining and how it pertains to the NBA negotiations. He hypothesized that neither side would truly operate under the guise of good faith until a legal ruling forced them to.
The real reason for the lack of urgency is that nothing will change in these talks until the first blow lands outside the conference room, in the courtroom. No one will budge until a legal victory forces them to.
With a complaint about the NBA’s bad-faith negotiations pending at the National Labor Relations Board pending, why would the players’ union cave right now on the massive concessions Stern has sought? Why would the owners move their position before seeing whether the union wins their complaint or decertifies? There’s no reason for either side to budge. No one has landed a blow — you could argue that the players’ earning FIBA’s approval is at least a small victory, but the NBA essentially didn’t contest that fight — so no one will react.
It’s a stand-off, and it’ll continue to be a stand-off until the union does something.
That’s why the idea that these guys should negotiate with each other in “good faith” is completely overwrought. Good faith flew out the window a long time ago, when Stern laid out the blueprint for this lockout years ago, when Hunter focused on prepping his players for the inevitable instead of finding a creative solution to avoid a stoppage, when the owners told players they couldn’t do what they are contracted to do without giving up a whole lot of money first. This is a lockout. That is not a matter to be taken lightly. Why should anyone be generous at the negotiating table at this point?
The owners’ lawsuit is a preemptive strike against union decertification and a plot to select the venue in a possible antitrust case (on this point, I am simply regurgitating Ken Berger’s opinion, as I don’t know why hosting the federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York should make any difference). Stern’s veins are beginning to bulge out of his neck, a blood vessel has popped on his forehead, his skin has become bright green, and his muscles are growing muscles of their own. As much hostility as I have for Stern right now, I almost respect that he will keep his foot on Billy Hunter’s throat throughout these negotiations. If I were a money-grubbing owner with no respect for any of my fans, I would love to have Stern on my side.
Meanwhile, the players are being mostly quiet. Stars have been touring China, , barnstorming in the Philippines, playing soccer in Washington, DC, and scoring 66 points at Rucker Park, but none of them have publicly ripped Stern or the owners. Spencer Hawes came the closest to firing shots at Stern, tweeting about the hypocrisy of Stern’s contract (the Commish reportedly makes $23 million, while he attempts to cut player contracts across the NBA, but no stars have been outspoken about the negotiations.
Just last week, Ken Berger ripped into the players’ leadership, citing the lack of public comments decrying the owners’ proposals. But maybe it’s better that way. Every time Stern opens his mouth, I do two things:
1) I dream about inserting a Shaq-sized Nike straight into Stern’s mouth, then repeatedly striking him with a wiffle ball bat.
2) I side more strongly with the players.
So far, the players are winning the court of public approval. But the battle has moved to a different court now. And things should get worse before they become better.