The worst-possible scenario occurred today for fans looking for the Celtics and NBA teams to return to action. The NBA Players Association, in pondering the owners' latest offer to end the lockout, decided to file a 'disclaimer of interest,' meaning the union now disbands and becomes a trade association.
Executive director Billy Hunter has passed on the responsibility of working out a collective bargaining agreement to lawyers and it is the first step in union decertification, which could be filed this week and take a minimum of 45 days.
"This is a system where we felt we couldn't function," executive director Billy Hunter told reporters in New York. "The collective bargaining process has completely broken down."
No negotiations are scheduled. The NBPA no longer exists and fans may have to wait a full year to see NBA basketball again. Several NBA players, including the Celtics' Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, talked about the proposal for about four hours before making this landmark decision.
While the players appeared united and solidified, the fans and those who work at TD Garden and other NBA arenas will not have a job for perhaps months.
"By this irresponsible action at this late date, Hunter has decided to put the season in jeopardy and deprive his union members of an enormous payday," Commissioner David Stern told ESPN. "It gets stranger and stranger and I think the chances of the season slipping away from us and the players losing everything they have worked hard to achieve, it's really a tragedy.
"That's all it is. This is a negotiating tactic. You don't get exactly the deal that you want, you disclaim interest and sue. But it's not gonna work. They should have done it a long time ago and maybe we would have had a chance to save the season. But they seem hell bent on self destruction and I think it's very sad."
The NBA has already filed a lawsuit with the National Labor Relations Board against the NBPA for unfair negotiating that has yet to be settled. The NBPA filed their lawsuit today and now both sides will wait until the legal process plays out, which could take months.
Here is the commissioner's official statement:
“At a bargaining session in February 2010, Jeffrey Kessler, counsel for the union, threatened that the players would abandon the collective bargaining process and start an antitrust lawsuit against our teams if they did not get a bargaining resolution that was acceptable to them.
“In anticipation of this day, the NBA filed an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board asserting that, by virtue of its continued threats, the union was not bargaining in good faith. We also began a litigation in federal court in anticipation of this same bargaining tactic.
“The NBA has negotiated in good faith throughout the collective bargaining process, but -- because our revised bargaining proposal was not to its liking – the union has decided to make good on Mr. Kessler’s threat.
“There will ultimately be a new collective bargaining agreement, but the 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy.”