As rumors of a NBA player mutiny surfaced this week because of two conference calls
that discussed decertification of the union, Celtics guard Ray Allen downplayed the calls to the Globe, calling decertification simply an “option.”
Allen said Friday night that teammate Paul Pierce organized the call of dozens of players to discuss the possibility of breaking up the union if a deal is not reached in coming weeks. According to Allen, there were two conference calls, one last week and the other Thursday. Allen said he was not on the second conference call.
There has been speculation that the conference calls were a clear sign that many players are dissatisfied with the players’ union, including executive director Billy Hunter. Allen said that was not the case.
“I don’t know what kind of feedback or backlash came from it but I didn’t think there was a need for anybody to panic whatsoever,” he said. “Either on our side as a players’ union or as owners. I thought the call was strictly (to explore options). It was never call to organize (union) business. It was purely educational from a player perspective.”
Hunter has been asked several times over the past few months about decertification, an action that would break up the union and allow the players to file individual class-action lawsuits against the NBA, claiming they are not being allowed to work. Tom Brady of the Patriots filed a similar suit against the NFL during their lockout. The drawback is a ruling could take several months and the league’s owners may be disinterested in negotiating during the decertification period.
According to union bylaws, 30 percent of the league’s players would need to vote in favor of a decertification vote to begin the process. The National Labor Relations Board could take up to 45 days to decide whether to organize a vote.
“The guys that were on the phone call, it was purely informative,” Allen said. “And we talked among ourselves about where we were and what guys thought about the situation that we’re in. We talked about decertification because where we stood at that moment we didn’t know when the next meeting was. That was one option was decertification. I don’t think anybody on the call assumed that’s what we were going to do. We talked about if that was something we were thinking about doing.”
The NBA owners and players have negotiated extensively over the past several weeks and appeared close to striking a deal last week, but the two sides haggled over basketball-related income, with the owners seeking a 50-50 split while the players want a 52-48 division. One percentage point equates to about $40 million per season and there are rumors that smaller-market owners are pushing commissioner David Stern to rescind the 50-50 offer in today’s meetings.
“We have complete faith in our union to get the job done,” Allen said. “I don’t know what was said (Thursday) on the call but I do know from the guys that were on the call (last week), nobody was anxious to pull the trigger like we’ve got to decertify now. Most of the guys that asked question was like ‘what exactly would we be doing if we decertified. Who would take over? How it would take over?’ That’s all we talked about. I don’t think anybody was panicking.”
Pierce has participated in labor negotiation meetings over the past few weeks and was one of the more vocal players on the conference call, but Allen said his teammate was not trying to overthrow the union.
“I don’t think he was frustrated,” Allen said. “I don’t think he had any malicious intent when he got everybody together. Paul’s ready to play and I just saw his sense of urgency in trying to move this thing forward and really just try to inform everybody. So the guys, if they are not speaking first hand with the union, at least getting everybody on the call because the players, we’re what makes up the league. If you’re not in a meeting, at least you get some feedback.”