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NBA Lockout to be Decided by the Courts

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on November 15, 2011 3:39 PM

The NBA lockout dispute is likely headed to court, after NBA players rejected the league's latest offer and disbanded their union.

The action clears the way for a legal offensive -- one that could be decided by a California judge.

The dispute centers on how to split the NBA's $4 billion in annual revenue. Team owners have offered players about a 50% cut -- down from 57% in the players' previous contract, which expired in July.

NBA commissioner David Stern called the union's disbanding a "charade" aimed at making owners scared. "That's not happening," Stern told ESPN, adding the basketball season is in jeopardy.

With the union disbanded, NBA players are now technically individuals in a "trade association," The New York Times explains.

That means they can challenge the lockout in a class action antitrust lawsuit -- something they couldn't do as a union.

It's the same tactic that NFL players tried to use during the football lockout earlier this year. The NFL dispute was later resolved at the bargaining table.

NBA owners anticipated the players' move. They filed a lawsuit in August, asking a New York federal court to declare the lockout is legal under antitrust laws. That case is pending.

Lawyers for the NBA players are threatening to file their antitrust suit within days.

Experts say that will likely happen in California, where courts seem more attuned to employee rights, the Times reports.

That could set the stage for another legal battle over which venue is more proper, experts say.

Aside from the rival antitrust suits, NBA owners have also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the players' union of bargaining in bad faith. That's a sign that the NBA lockout probably won't be ending anytime soon.

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