Report: NBA players could decertify

Updated: April 26, 2011, 4:19 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NBA players' union already has enough votes from its members to decertify, should it decide to follow the strategy used by the NFL players' union, CBSSports.com reported, citing unnamed sources.

The NBA is facing the possibility of a lockout when the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the owners expires on June 30.

But a U.S. District Court judge's decision to grant an injunction ending the NFL lockout -- casting aside the league's argument that the NFL union's decision to decertify was a sham -- may have given the NBA players' union an important precedent -- should the ruling stand.

"This is a victory for all professional sports' unions," Gabe Feldman, head of the Sports Law Center at Tulane University, told CBSSports.com. "If the case stands up on appeal, it gives player unions a significant, though costly, weapon to use as leverage in labor negotiations."

In the event of an NBA lockout, the union could do what the NFL union did -- decertify, then file an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA anywhere the league does business. That would include Minnesota, where U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson heard arguments from the NFL and its union, then issued an opinion Monday ordering an end to the lockout.

The NFL has filed a notice of appeal of Nelson's decision with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

Billy Hunter, the NBA union's executive director, told Sports Illustrated that the decision was "a great ruling for the players," but only the first step in a lengthy battle.

"What it does is put pressure on us to sit down and settle this," Hunter told SI. "We just want a fair deal."

Last week, NBA commissioner David Stern said he is eager to intensify talks with the union to avoid a lockout and court fight. At the league's recent owners' meetings, Stern said the NBA was planning to present a revised proposal to the union soon.

The NBA and its union remain divided on key issues; the league's owners want to replace the current soft salary cap and luxury tax system with a hard salary cap, as well as reduce the length of guaranteed contracts.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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