Another critical weekend is shaping up to determine how long the NBA lockout will go on.
Owners and players will meet Saturday in New York, with federal mediator George Cohen, for the first time since talks broke off Oct. 28 and NBA Commissioner David Stern canceled all of November's games.
But in a highly unusual move, the league's Board of Governors will hold an impromptu full meeting in New York on Saturday — ahead of the resumption of talks with the players — less than two weeks after their scheduled full agenda of meetings in the city.
Stern indicated last week the NBA's next offer on basketball-related income (BRI) wholesale jerseys — one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the 127-day lockout — might not be their last offer of a 50-50 split. He said the offer "will reflect extraordinary losses that are starting to pile up."
However, it is believed Stern will try to convince owners to keep 50-50 on the table this weekend and possibly see if there is any interest in offering 51% to players.
There is, of course, a group of hardline owners who not only do not want to cheap mlb jerseys give players more than 50%, they also are more comfortable offering players 46-47%.
The National Basketball Players Association's executive committee will also convene before meeting with owners and those members of the union are also expected to hash out their game plan.
"I don't think there should ever be a circumstance where owners should make the same or more than the players," said a skeptical Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBPA, after Friday's three-hour union executive board meeting. "I don't care if it's 2%, 3%, I think the players deserve more than what the owners get."
There is trouble brewing for both sides on another matter, too.
About 50 players participated in a conference call with an antitrust attorney Thursday to learn more about decertification, according to two people familiar with the call but who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of labor negotiations.
It was more of educational call so that players knew the pros and cons nfl jerseys cheap of decertification this late in the process. But it came at the same that the union leadership was professing unity and strength behind president and Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter.
Decertification requires a formal process with the NLRB. At least 30% of workers in the union (about 125 NBA players) need to sign a petition to decertify. If that happens, a vote to decertify is conducted by the NLRB. To decertify, at least 50% of players must vote for in favor.
One person familiar with the decertification teleconference call who requested anonymity said players in favor of decertification will push to collect the required signatures early next week if talks break down again this weekend or if they don't like the deal the league is offering, specifically an offer of BRI less than 52%.
Privately, several agents have questioned why the union didn't decertify early in the process, similar to how the NFLPA dissolved its union early in the NFL lockout and pursued antitrust lawsuits.
"It presents problems for the entire process," Tulane law professor jerseys wholesale and sports law expert Gabe Feldman said. "We could be looking at the potential breakdown of the collective bargaining process.
"And if — again, this is a big if — if decertification actually happens, this would be a coup of the union. This would overthrow the union because a sufficient number of the players are unhappy with the union's representation of the players."
One person familiar with the decertification conference call said the concern is that going through with the decertification process would almost ensure a lost season at this point in the lockout.
Yet one person familiar with the players' thinking but requesting yotoforum anonymity because he was not authorized to go public said an offer of 50-50 on BRI, with some of the system issues such as the salary cap already agreed upon, would be ratified by players.
Hunter has said publicly his membership has told him not to go below 52%, leaving the players and owners $80 million-$120 million apart in the first year of a new collective bargaining agreement and more than a $1 billion over a 10-year CBA.
The split of BRI is not the only unresolved matter. The sides differ on certain of those system issues, such as the salary cap/luxury tax, annual raises, opt-out availability in the next CBA and the ability of tax-paying clubs to use exceptions to exceed the cap.
When a side gives up something in one area, it wants something in another, and around it goes.
Cohen will again be key in Saturday's joint meeting. He mediated three consecutive bargaining sessions two weeks ago — more than 30 hours in three consecutive days — before the talks broke down.
Hunter said Thursday Cohen reached out to him earlier this week, encouraging Hunter to contact Stern and arrange another bargaining session.
It is the first encouraging sign since the good vibes that emerged briefly last week were replaced by uncertainty and the prospect of a lost season.
There also is the matter of the NBPA's complaint against the NBA cheap jerseys with the National Labor Relations Board still pending, Feldman said the NBPA could be barred from decertifying until the complaint is resolved.
Feldman also said the threat of decertification to gain leverage is a strategy just as much as actual decertification.
"When you think about what leverage players have, part of their leverage is proving to the owners they can stay unified during a work stoppage and particularly that they can stay unified when they're missing paychecks," Feldman said. "Beyond that, their leverage is the threat of dissolving their union, and it may be that dissolution is more powerful as a threat than an actual weapon.
"The mere public discussion and mere possibility of decertification may be sufficient to get the owners to move."
Maybe decertification threats provide leverage in this weekend's negotiations. Maybe not.
"For litigation to play out, it would take years. I don't think that would be in the interest of the players," Feldman said. "Lawsuits are filed and settled before they go to trial. It might bring the parties closer together. We saw the same thing happen in the NFL. That case wasn't litigated to its fruition."
There is a difference between what the NFL did and what NBA players might consider regarding decertification. In the NFL's case, union leaders disclaimed interest and the union dissolved.
In decertification, workers are saying it no longer wants representation from a union.
"Decertification is more like a coup, more like the members of the union say they no longer want to be represented by the union and are opting out of the union. It's the players walking away from the union," Feldman said. "In disclaimer of interest, it's the union saying they no longer want to represent the players."
Decertification is also risky. Players would lose protection from labor laws that a union provides, and there is no guarantee decertification leads to a favorable deal for players.
The sides met this week in U.S. district court to discuss the merits of the complaint filed by the NBA against the NBPA, which wants the suit dismissed. In that suit, the NBA requested a declaration "that the lockout is lawful and protected from antitrust attack" because of "non-statutory labor exemption."
The NBA also requested a declaration that "the Norris-LaGuardia Act deprives the federal courts of jurisdiction to enjoin or restrain the lockout."
Also in the federal complaint, the NBA wants 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."
If the union dissolves, it would allow players to pursue antitrust lawsuits and perhaps gain leverage and force owners into a deal that isn't so lopsided in favor of owners.
However, the NBA's court filings only addressed a disclaimer of interest in their complaint.
"Players would argue the declaratory judgment action in New York would not apply if the players decertified their union, as opposed to the union disclaiming interest in representing the players," Feldman said. "They would argue those are two different scenarios. The owners only argued, in their papers, the disclaimer of interest would be ineffective or a sham or would not allow the players to bring an antitrust claim.
"It would be very difficult for the owners to make an argument that there was any imminent threat of decertification, because there had really been no talk of decertification. There had only been talk of disclaimer. … The owners might argue there is no real distinction there."
However, Feldman said, "This could conceivably move the owners to try to amend their complaint with the federal district court in New York to add decertification to their complaint."