Players go on offensive, file two lawsuits against NBA
NBA Commissioner David Stern may have been bluffing during recent collective bargaining negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association, issuing a series of soft deadlines and tough ultimatums.
Players proved Tuesday they weren't.
One day after the union became a trade association following Billy Hunter's disclaimer of interest, players backed up their stand-united front and filed two antitrust complaints against the NBA.
The initial lawsuit was filed in Minneapolis. Minnesota's Anthony Tolliver, Detroit's Ben Gordon, free agent Caron Butler and Derrick Williams, who was chosen by the Timberwolves with the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, were named as plaintiffs.
A second suit was filed in California. Plaintiffs include New York's Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, free agent Leon Powe and Kawhi Leonard, a rookie who was acquired by San Antonio during the 2011 draft.
David Boies, an attorney for the players, said the suits are an attempt to restore competitive free-market conditions in the NBA. While NFL players sought an injunction to end pro football's recent lockout, basketball players are seeking a summary judgement that could end the 138-day NBA lockout before owners cancel the entire 2011-12 season. If successful, players could receive treble damages worth more than $2 billion.
"If you're in a poker game, and you run a bluff, and the bluff works, you're a hero. If someone calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners overplayed their hand," Boies said. "They did a terrific job of taking a very hard line and pushing the players to make concession after concession after concession, but greed is not only a terrible thing it's a dangerous thing."
The NBA filed a lawsuit Aug. 2 in federal district court in New York seeking to establish the lockout doesn't violate federal antitrust laws. If the NBPA's dissolution is ruled to be lawful, the NBA is requesting all players contracts become void and unenforceable.
"We haven't seen Mr. Boies' complaint yet but it's a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said in a statement. "They warned us from the early days of these negotiations that they would sue us if we didn't satisfy them at the bargaining table, and they appear to have followed through on their threats."
Plaintiffs named in the players' suits argue the lockout "constitutes an illegal group boycott, price-fixing agreement, and/or restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Act."
According to the Minnesota complaint, the class-action suit was broken into subclasses because they are "so numerous and geographically so widely dispersed that joinder of all members is impracticable."
More lawsuits could be filed and possibly combined, while Yahoo! Sports and CBS Sports reported about 200 players are still considering decertifying.
Meanwhile, the NBA on Tuesday canceled regular-season games through Dec. 15.
Seven Jazz contests were erased from the calendar: Dec. 2 versus the Los Angeles Lakers, Dec. 4 at San Antonio, Dec. 5 at Dallas, Dec. 7 vs. Orlando, Dec. 9 vs. Boston, Dec. 12 vs. New Orleans and Dec. 14 vs. Golden State.
A total of 324 regular-season games 26 percent of the season has been canceled.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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