“Of course the players didn’t want to do this,” Bartelstein said. “They wanted to get a deal done, they made a ton of concessions, all the way to giving down $300 million a year to the owners.”
The players turned down commissioner David Stern’s “take it or leave it” earlier this week, which was followed by lawsuits being filed in California and Minnesota.
“They don’t want to miss a season; they don’t want to miss 20 games,” Bartelstein said.
“But there comes a point when you do what you have to do. The alternative is to agree to a deal you think is unfair, (so) you do what you have to do.”
So, what’s next?
Cooley Law sports and entertainment law professor Don Petersen said this could end in a variety of ways.
“The best-case scenario is they never litigate and they settle,” Petersen said. “The lawsuit in California was filed by the association because the courts are favorable for unions.”
Petersen, who worked closely as an attorney with NFL agents Kevin and Carl Poston, said the onus is on the owners.
“Right now we’re at a waiting game to see the owners respond,” Petersen said. “Are they going to file a motion to change venue? The owners have 30 days to file a response and already have a lawsuit pending in New York. They’d want to put them all together for efficiency’s sake.”
While many have drawn comparisons to the NFL lockout, Petersen said the decision by football players to decertify is different than what the NBA players have done.
“A disclaimer of interest says the union said we don’t want to be your union anymore,” Petersen said. “The NFL situation was very atypical, it was very quick. Here, you might not have a hearing for three months.”
David Boies, who represented the NFL against the players, has sided with the NBA players, along with Jeffrey Kessler.
“Boies said it’s factually distinct from the NFL,” Petersen said. “He said they wouldn’t seek an injunction saying the owners couldn’t lock out the players and they have to come back to play.”
Petersen believes Stern’s negotiating tactics led the players down this route, along with questionable methods by former union head Billy Hunter.
“A couple of months ago Hunter said he didn’t want to decertify,” Petersen said. “The players messed up bad in making a huge concession in giving the owners $1 billion early on. They did it so quickly that the question became how much the players were going to give up as opposed to if they were giving up money.
“They tried a mediator, Stern has come out — I don’t know how to describe his own behavior. He’s been worse than hardball.”
Bartelstein, one of the “seven super agents” who wanted to decertify from the onset, agrees with the notion, and said it’s on the owners to change the terms of the deal to save the season.
“It’s not a fair deal, it’s tremendously one-sided,” Bartelstein said. “The players want to have the options of where they want to play.
“It’s not just about money; it’s about money and control.”