NBA Players Union Decertifies, Files Antitrust Lawsuit

The NBA Players’ Union decertified and filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA.

This illustrates a flaw in the State legal system.  The NBA players have a simple yes/no question, “Is the lockout legal or not?”  However, it’s going to take months for a trial.

The delay in the legal system favors the owners.  The owners have deeper pockets than the players, and can afford to hold out for longer.  If you can borrow at 5% when inflation is 20%-30%+, that gives you the ability to wait.

It isn’t clear who will win in a full trial.  A full trial and appeals will take a year or longer.  A settlement is practically certain before then.

The NFL players won at the district level, but the league won on appeal.  However, that was only ruling on a preliminary injunction and not a full trial.  There is no binding precedent, whether or not a sports league can lock out its players after the union decertifies.  All the other trials were settled, before a final verdict.

There is another difference between the NFL and the NBA.  In the NFL, contracts are typically not guaranteed.  In the NBA, contracts are usually 100% guaranteed.  Does the NBA have to pay those guaranteed contracts anyway?  That is unclear.

When/if the union does settle and recertify, they probably should fire the leader, Billy Hunter.  The union’s behavior was logically inconsistent.  Why did they first agree to 50% and an owner-friendly-deal, and then refuse to ratify it?  That makes no sense.

Either they should have put the agreement as-is to a players’ vote, or never made so many concessions in the first place.  What they actually did makes no sense.

Why didn’t they put the owners’ final offer to a vote of the full union?  Suppose that 60% voted against and 40% voted for the deal.  Then, the owners might make only a little more concessions to get another 11%.  What’s wrong with that?  It seems unfair, that the deal wasn’t put to the full union vote.  That’s why representative democracy doesn’t work.

Also, the union may not have a good plan.  Suppose the entire season is cancelled.  The lawsuit isn’t finished yet, or they lose, and it’s next year.  Then what do the players do?  Do they accept 47% or 50% after waiting a year?  If they do that, then they gave up a years’ salary for nothing.  The owners probably already decided that, if there’s a full lost season, then they’ll make their 47% or 50% offer again.

The owners were too greedy.  If they had conceded another 1%, they might have closed the deal.  If they didn’t insist on limiting the mid-level cap exemption, they might have closed the deal.  They demanded too much.

The NBA is never going to have full competitive balance like the NFL.  In the NBA, a superstar player is 1/5 of the team.  That’s a huge advantage, and every team can’t have a superstar.  In the NFL, a superstar quarterback is only 1/20 of the team.  That make it easier to have competitive balance.

The owners may be angry, about how LeBron James and his friends all played for Miami.  The salary cap system actually promotes that.  Consider an extreme example.  If the maximum salary were only $1M, then all the superstars might go to the same team so they could win easily.  When your salary is capped, other considerations start to be more important.

Antitrust law attempts to solve a State-created problem.  The State gives businesses a monopoly, by restricting competition.  Then, the State declares it to be illegal to abuse your monopoly.  The real problem is that the players can’t easily start their own league.  The players don’t seem to be seriously trying that.

The most frustrating part of the antitrust lawsuit is the delay.  It’s a simple yes/no question, “Is the lockout legal?”  Why does it take the State legal system so long, to answer a simple yes/no question?

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