NBA Players File Antitrust Suits Against NBA

Two suits, one in Minnesota (good NFL case law there) and one in California:

The initial lawsuit was filed in Minneapolis. Minnesota’s Anthony Tolliver, Detroit’s Ben Gordon, free agent Caron Butler and Derrick Williams, who was chosen by the Timberwolves with the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, were named as plaintiffs.

A second suit was filed in California. Plaintiffs include New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, free agent Leon Powe and Kawhi Leonard, a rookie who was acquired by San Antonio during the 2011 draft.

I liked what David Boies, attorney for the players, said:

"If you’re in a poker game, and you run a bluff, and the bluff works, you’re a hero. If someone calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners overplayed their hand," Boies said. "They did a terrific job of taking a very hard line and pushing the players to make concession after concession after concession, but greed is not only a terrible thing — it’s a dangerous thing."

This situation interests me, so expect a lot of coverage.

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    The Boies quote... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kdog on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 11:33:08 AM EST
    sums up the problem with our entire country...just sub "people" for "players".

    Greed is a helluva drug, causing more societal harm than every drug known to mankind put together.  NBA owners fixing to slay their golden goose, typical behavior of 1%'ers lately.

    Will the preemptive lawsuit (none / 0) (#1)
    by republicratitarian on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 10:54:15 AM EST
    the league filed in New York have any effect on these lawsuits?

    I'd need to see the suits (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 11:09:21 AM EST
    but my understanding is it could in that if the collective bargaining process is still ongoing, as the NBA? argues, then antitrust law does not apply.

    Interesting (none / 0) (#4)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 11:39:14 AM EST
    I think this is hugely different than the American Needle NFL case wherein NFL teams had agreed as to how to jointly market thier respective intellectual property.

    Putting aside the governing labor laws relating to collective bargaining, about which I am 100% ignorant, I think the league has a good argument it is working in concert to insure competitive games by agreeing on owner/player revenue splits, so league parity can be maintained.  

    I still wonder though if the league succeeds with that argument if their is then any Section 2 abuse of monopsony power angle for the players to  pursue.  The NBA is the only organization buying the services of these players.  North America has got be the relevant market in this case.  When was the last European or Israeli b-ball game anyone here watched?  Is there any argument that by limiting or seeking to limit player salaries the NBA as a solo enterprise is strengthening its monopoly on professional basketball?  The NBA is no doubt taking advantage of its monopoly in these negotiations.

    Again, there are obviously labor laws that apply & potentially overlap, which is also unlike the American Needle case.

    Would a potential competing league (none / 0) (#5)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 11:44:31 AM EST
    be placed at a disdvantage because of the NBA, as sole actor, entered into agreements on revenue splits with players?

    Do players even have standing to raise the matter?


    The NBA is a monopoly (none / 0) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 12:25:59 PM EST
    is the player's argument and that the deals they seek are a horizontal agreement on wages.

    Outside of collective bargaining, I'm not seeing how that is  legal.


    I thought they were arguing that the NBA teams (none / 0) (#16)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:38:29 PM EST
    are colluding and jointly boycotting, restraining trade etc.  I thought is was the NBA's argument to say there is no agreement, we are one entity.

    Right (none / 0) (#31)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:59:14 PM EST
    I miswrote.

    Very much disagree with that (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 12:24:37 PM EST
    with what? (none / 0) (#15)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:37:00 PM EST
    To be clearer (none / 0) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:38:22 PM EST
    that American Needle is arguably helpful to the NBA's case.

    The licensing agreement between the clubs is not necessarily in an area where they compete - certainly not in the labor area.

    The single entity argument seems superior in the American Needle case.


    NFL lost the single entity argument (none / 0) (#32)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 04:11:08 PM EST
    or at least with respect to team logos and IP.

    "Directly relevant here, the teams are poten-tially competing suppliers in the market for intellectual property. When teams license such property, they are not pursuing the 'com-mon interests of the whole" league, but, instead, the interests of each"corporation itself.' . . . Decisions by NFL teams to license their separately owned trademarks collectively and to only one vendor are decisions that 'depriv[e] the marketplace of independent centers of decisionmaking,' ibid., and therefore of actual or potential competition.'"

    "owned intellectual property constitute concerted action. Thirty-two teams operating independently through the vehicle of the NFLP are not like the components of a single firm that act to maximize the firm'sprofits."

    and in analyzing the rule of reason re prosports leagues,

    "Other features of the NFL may also save agreements amongst the teams. We have recognized, for example,'that the interest in maintaining a competitive balance' among 'athletic teams is legitimate and important,' NCAA, 468 U. S., at 117. While that same interest applies to the teams in the NFL, it does not justify treating them as a single entity for §1 purposes when it comes to the marketing of the teams' individually owned intellectual property. It is, however, unquestionably an interest that may well justify a variety of collective decisions made by the teams."

    I would not be surprised if the NBA owners, and/or the league if it is itself the counterparty negotiating with the players, will point to this last quote to justify their horizontal agreement, whatever that agreement's form.  


    Interesting (none / 0) (#8)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 01:16:44 PM EST
    Interesting that he would talk about "greed" considering that I think both sides are equally greedy....

    Can we viewers get in on this action?  as in can we negotiate a cut in our exhorbitant, unaffordable ticket prices along with all of the other negotiations?  ...didn't think so.

    I don't see the players as greedy... (5.00 / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:02:16 PM EST
    are they paid very well? Yes, but they should get the lion's share, they are the talent we pay an arm and a leg to see, they are the talent that generates so much revenue...nobody ever paid 500 bucks for a ticket to see an owner.  That's not greed, that's fairness.  It's not like if the players take less it's gonna go back in fan's pockets, it's gonna go back in owner's pockets.

    Like Chris Rock famously said..."Shaq is rich.  The guy who signs Shaq's paycheck is wealthy."

    Fans would be wise to form a union of some sort, or protest in unison over high ticket prices...I hear that. But we're like junkies.  


    Nobody is paying (none / 0) (#14)
    by Zorba on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:35:26 PM EST
    to see Jerry Reinsdorf (owner of the Chicago Bulls) or Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) or any of the other owners (or owner- conglomerates) that own the teams dribble, pass and dunk the ball.  It does seem hard to have sympathy for the players, many of whom are millionaires.  But, OTOH, the owners, for the most part, are far wealthier than the players, and their effective working lives will last far, far longer than those of the players, who are limited by the inevitable results of aging and injuries.

    Ms Zorba (none / 0) (#18)
    by NYShooter on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:54:23 PM EST
    Of course my thoughts are with the players, and not the schmuck owners. And, in trying to type faster than my abilities allow, I might have sounded a little glib.

    But, if athletes had the skills necessary to run a multi billion dollar business they would be doing it already. Fortunately, they know their limitations and stick to what they know best.

    As to not paying to watch owners.....you can expand that to every business on earth. I'm quite certain the owners of Four Seasons restaurant make a little more money than their chefs do.

    And so on.


    It's very true, Shooter (none / 0) (#21)
    by Zorba on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:20:46 PM EST
    But I was replying to TeresaInSnow2, not you.  ;-)

    PS (none / 0) (#23)
    by Zorba on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:24:27 PM EST
    And I do wonder if the players couldn't hook up with some savvy financial guys who could advise them on how to create and run their own league.  Of course, that wouldn't mean that they would choose wisely, or that their advisers wouldn't take advantage of them.........

    Mark Cuban thinks you're there to see him (none / 0) (#20)
    by republicratitarian on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:12:37 PM EST
    Apparently, he's not the only owner (none / 0) (#22)
    by Zorba on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:22:11 PM EST
    of any major league sports team who thinks the same way.   ;-)

    As I understand it players got 57% of revenue (none / 0) (#17)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:52:46 PM EST
    for salaries and the owners demanded that be reduced to 47%, then generously offered 50%. That's a big cut. And most NBA players do not make the All Star team, get endorsement deals or play beyond a few years.

    I generally don't have a problem with pro player salaries for two reasons:  1) risk/reward,i.e., anywhere along the road a broken leg or similar injury could ruin their hard work & effort to become a pro leaving them with bupkiss, and 2) the money is there & owners pocket it if players don't.

    Pro players at the highest level represent the top several hundred - 1000 of their profession.  What is the average salary of the "top" 1000 doctors, lawyers, engineers, or dare I even say it, financiers; put another way, what is the average salary of the 1000 highest paid in those professions?

    You are correct they have priced out the average fan from attending games.  


    Now, there's an interesting (none / 0) (#10)
    by Zorba on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:00:56 PM EST
    speculation, Donald.  I don't know about the legalities, but I do wonder if the players themselves could, indeed, start a new league, using their own fame, names and drawing power.  

    Makes for a good fairy tale (none / 0) (#12)
    by NYShooter on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:32:55 PM EST
    Reality, unfortunately, doesn't take its cue from fairy tales.

    The idea is specious on so many fronts it's a waste of time to list them all.

    Players are players; they know one thing....how to put a ball through a hoop. There's a reason so many athletes, in spite of receiving millions in salary and bonus, end up broke.

    Love'm, or hate'm, business people know how to run businesses.....and basketball is a business.

    How would you like to be conducting a meeting among a bunch of uneducated, egotistical, spoiled rotten stars when the subject of revenue splits comes up? Can you see Lebron, Kobe, Shaq agreeing on who should get more?

    Time for an Excedrin.

    I think you're being too dismissive (none / 0) (#19)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:10:22 PM EST
    of athletes.  It is hard to refine your talents and achieve the level they have.  And it takes smarts & dedication.  And a lot, indeed most, do not end up broke.  Some spectacularly blow through hundreds of millions, that's true, so do a lot of businessmen.  I don't think pro athletes are any more spoiled than other professionals at the top of their professions, e.g., movie stars, doctors, lawyers etc.  We just don't generally follow those people as closely, well movie stars & other entertainers we do.

    I am thinking in particular of many businessmen and women on Wall Street, who but for taxpayer bailouts would have gone broke several years ago. But we can't, we're told, allow them to go broke or the world as we know it (more truthfully their world as they know it) will end. But there are other businesspersons who are allowed to go broke and regularly do so.


    You know, (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by NYShooter on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:42:42 PM EST
    In short blog posts its not always possible to express one's thoughts with all the meaning & nuance one would like to.

    So, I wouldn't disagree with you in most of your thoughts.

    However, regarding athletes, I speak from first hand experience. Having been a scholarship athlete in college (although not in the major sports: football, basketball) I can tell you that the adulation, doting, and extraordinary treatment they receive do not prepare them well for life in the "real world" after their college years end.


    But you worked to earn that doting (none / 0) (#35)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 04:22:25 PM EST
    & extraordinary treatment, it was perhaps in part what motivated you to excel at your sport.  That's my main point.  I do not begrudge athletes those perks.  It really is among the more meritocratic( is that a word?) of professions.

    The Wall Street people wouldn't have gone (none / 0) (#25)
    by tigercourse on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:34:56 PM EST
    broke (at least not the rich ones, lower level people might have been screwed, as in Corzines little romp). The financial system would have come to an even swifter halt and fallen far further. The unemployment rate would have been way higher and retirement accounts would be worse off then they are now and right now Herman freaking Cain would have been able to beat Obama in the next election because he'd have Jimmy Carter numbers.

    They also paid that money back.


    A very small portion... (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by kdog on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:41:21 PM EST
    of the money and favors have been "paid back".  Miniscule portion.

    Shake me when there are no more interest free loans from the Fed...thats a "bailout" too.


    it is a bailout (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 04:13:26 PM EST
    and the  purported paybacks are as fruaduently misrepresented as the financial instruments whose failure led to the crisis.

    So we're told (none / 0) (#34)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 04:18:23 PM EST
    most notably by those who were bailed out.  Bush initiated the bailout not Obama and had Bush not Obama would have faced very different circumstances, perhaps different enough to have acted with New Deal-like fortitude.

    I am confident we'll find out sooner than we care to what would have happened without the bailout.  Banks are bigger than ever, licensed to gamble more than ever and the next failure will be so big that even all the King's horses & all the King's men won't be able to put Humpty Dumpty together again.


    you know i think (none / 0) (#44)
    by CST on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 09:20:08 AM EST
    this is both true and missing the point.

    Yes, things would have been much worse if the government had not injected those billions of dollars into the economy to keep us off a cliff.

    I just happen to think there are other industries where injecting billions of dollars would also have kept the unemployment rate lower and I've yet to see a convincing argument why it really is only the financial industry that got that level of investment.

    And yea, I realize they paid the money back.  But frankly, you loan someone that kind of money, it usually comes with more strings attached than just "pay us back".


    No doubt... (none / 0) (#27)
    by kdog on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:39:41 PM EST
    there is skill and talent in running a business...I just don't think it is a particularly rare skill...certainly not as rare or marketable as the skills possessed by NBA players.

    Sh*t a monkey could do a better job of running a franchise than Jimmy Dolan does....somebody find a monkey with a rich daddy! :)


    Poor guy (none / 0) (#36)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 04:24:13 PM EST
    Knicks or Rangers, or both?

    Just the Knicks... (none / 0) (#37)
    by kdog on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 04:49:43 PM EST
    Islander fan...with the owner who thought it a good idea to give Dipietro a lifetime contract.

    And a Mets...I'm hurtin' for a decent owner on many fronts Bob.


    I pushed the idea of a community-owned league (none / 0) (#13)
    by Gisleson on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:33:18 PM EST
    in an SB Nation NBA blog, and didn't find much support even though I think it would be great.

    Of course, I also think the NCAA is an abomination before God, and that almost everything about how we manage sports in this country is wrong, immoral and pretty much exactly the opposite of how we do everything else.

    Glad to hear BTD will be focusing on this. The NBA is my favorite league because I can actually see the ball they use, unlike baseball or hockey.

    Along Those Lines (none / 0) (#30)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:49:37 PM EST
    During the NFL lock-out the players were forbid from going to Reliant Stadium.  So no NFL player could watch the Final Four live.  They were also locked out for the Rodeo and any concerts.  

    Never mind who is paying for it, the city/fans, the owners seem to think they can dictate whose enters what is essentially a city building or rather a building paid for by the city.

    So now the NBA players will be locked out of the Toyota Center, which is where a majority of major events are played.

    My city can't afford to have them not play, those revenues are used to keep the payments flowing.  A lot of people count on those games to feed their families.

    M y home state Packers have the prototype for a franchise.  The people own the team, the owners are many and when it needs renovation they sell stock, people who don't like football don't buy it, fans like myself buy it even though it's allows me nothing but watching my team play.

    Traditional owners add no value to a team, the cities own build the stadiums, and the players provide the entertainment.  I think your suggestion would be grand if the cities could take control over the stadiums they built.

    my heart is with the players (none / 0) (#38)
    by pitachips on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 06:02:14 PM EST
    But the one thing that they need to understand is that even though the fans attend and watch because of the players, they are playing in the owner's league. The owners have no problem wiping out an entire season. They're billionaires. Players on the other hand, many of whom live check to check due to terrible financial decisions, will eventually cave.  Here is what one of the leaders of the NHL players unions had to say about the NBA lockout

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/sports/Veteran+conflict+warns+owners+have+more+power+than+seems/56019 85/story.html

    Millionaires v. Billionaires (none / 0) (#41)
    by rdandrea on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 07:39:12 PM EST
    Only the fans, and small businesses who depend on the season, lose.

    A pox on both their houses.

    The only thing I wonder about this situation is why the NHL is not on TV every night.

    Worth noting (none / 0) (#43)
    by scribe on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 08:48:08 AM EST
    the lead lawyers for the players (Boies and someone whose name escapes me) in this suit were the lead lawyers for both the players and management in the NFL players' antitrust suit against the NFL.

    When both sides' lawyers are on your side, it's a good sign.