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2011 NBA Lockout Sparks Union Decertification Talk

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 04, 2011 4:01 PM

We have sports on the brain as we prepare for the most important football game of the year this weekend, so we're taking a break from our usual coverage of attorney sanctions and standing to check on the progress of the 2011 NBA Lockout.

How, you might wonder, is the players' lockout related to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals?

We're glad you asked.

National Basketball Association (NBA) players are part of a union, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). As you may have noticed from the loop of sitcom re-runs that have been playing on TBS instead of your beloved basketball games, the basketball season has been delayed due to the NBA collective bargaining standoff between NBA players and owners.

As a union, the players are stuck in the collective bargaining route, so players are seeking advice from an antitrust lawyer on possible union decertification. If players decertified the NBPA, they could pursue an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA owners.

One hiccup in the union decertification plan? The owners anticipated antitrust litigation, and filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court to enjoin players from challenging the lockout on antitrust grounds.

This is where the Second Circuit Court of Appeals factors in.

Any federal lawsuit that comes out of this dispute is going to be appealed. As we saw in the NFL antitrust lawsuit earlier this year, professional sports labor disputes can be adjudicated in any state in which there's a franchise. NFL players, for example, filed in the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis because they wanted a pro-player venue. It was a good strategy, until the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the owners' favor.

The NBA owners, however, wanted to avoid the risk of ending up in a pro-labor circuit like the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, so they filed their lawsuit in New York to stake their claim on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Before you start panicking about NBA union decertification, sports law experts don't think the players would prevail in an antitrust lawsuit. But if it does, Michael McCann at Sports Illustrated says that it could kill the 2011-2012 NBA season.

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