Decertification Donuts: Justifiable Insanity
DONUT 1: Stern's take-it-or-see-it-reduced proposal (or else the BRI split goes to 53/47) is inarguably an insult to the players and a bastardization of the process. That's not "negotiation''; of course, with the owners possessing the same upper hand that they've always possessed, maybe this never was negotiation. Maybe this always about the players finally accepting a "Less Worse Deal.''
It is clear there is a faction of owners who are pushing Stern to do this. He's not the judge here, just the executioner. This lockout – and maybe decertification of the union, and then certainly the loss of a season – is not the way he wants his legacy written.
DONUT 2: But the message has been sent. And now the union is inviting all 30 player reps to New York for meetings that will decide how far this game of Billion-Dollar Chicken will be allowed to proceed.
What do the rank-and-file want? Logic tells me that if the union conducted a poll of its 450 or so members, the fellas would elect to cave – accept the "punishment'' of average $5 mil salaries and go back to work, conceding that the owners own and that the players are slightly more "employees'' than they are "partners.''
But that's not the vote that is coming. Union officials are saying that the offer is so lousy that they won't bother to take it to their constituents. I find that decision rather insulting; why not let the rank-and-file decide for itself whether it is "insulted''? But instead …
DONUT 3: We're on the verge of an attempt to decertify the union.
From what I've been told, that can work thusly:
*Approximately 120 of the league's players must sign a petition. Various published reports say the players would have no problem getting that number to vote.
*Assuming the vote goes through, they file the petition to vote on decertification with the National Labor Relations Board. At this point, the owners lose some control … but the players will be made to realize that legal stuff doesn't happen like it does on "Law & Order.''
*Eventually, the players will need a majority of membership to vote in favor of decertification. But …
DONUT 4: By the time it gets that far, their agents (not to mention their fans, their wives and the lenders on their mortgages) will be reminding them of the 45-day period during which the NLRB works on the case. ( David Lord has more on how the NLRB works here.) Negotiations can continue during that period, and should, because if they complete the petition this week and then trigger the 45-day clock, they are looking at at least four holiday "off'' days, meaning a ruling on around Dec. 27.
Then comes the formal vote to decertify (and assuming it passes, amid the aforementioned clamoring from friends and family and the by-then four missed paychecks) and the formal filing of the suit.
At which point some of the fellas are going to be wondering why Benson and Stabler can't just roll in and lock everybody up.
DONUT 5: We are in the federal court system. And it moves slooooowly. One prominent news source today has a story urging the NBA's stars to go on a world barnstorming tour because "14 superstars can make more money barnstorming than they've ever made before'' or whatever. I've addressed before how unrealistic this is, but what also needs to be addressed is this: While the players are in the federal courts, with many of them unable to pay their bills, solidarity will be more critical than ever. And yes, "14 guys can make more money barnstorming than they've ever made before.'' But what about the other 425 guys? What about the non-superstars? Right now, some of the superstars (reportedly fired up by Paul Pierce) are spearheading this rebellious movement. But there is a separation between a superstar who can spearhead movements and conduct world tours … and the hundreds of guys who are about to lose their chance at $5 million for 2010-11 … money they will never recover.
DONUT 6: But they will have to wait.
The suit will be filed and then they will wait some more. New Year's is another holiday. MLK Day is another. We're now deep into January before a ruling is possible, and most likely, the season is lost.
DONUT 7: It is possible that decertification "scares'' the owners into compromise. That is almost certainly the hope of some union leaders. But I maintain that the 30 men who own NBA teams have a deeper understanding of this sort of "game'' and have deeper pockets, too.
Granted, the negotiating climate would be altered. Maybe other ownership voices would attempt to drown out the hardliners. Maybe a rank-and-file movement among players would emerge, urging the fellas to "just sign it.''
DONUT 8: What's not being considered, unfortunately, is what happens to the sport if it disappears for a year. There might be damage done that cannot be made up no matter the millions or billions spent, earned or shared.
DONUT 9: Another consideration that the players might want to weigh: Their leadership is so "righteous.'' A cynic might suggest that these young men are so accustomed to getting their way – at least since they sprouted up as tall, talented teens – that they haven't considered the ramifications of losing.
What if they vote for decertification … and lose their case?
DONUT 10: I can virtually guarantee you that there are hundreds of NBA players who do not understand the multitude of wrinkles here. I can guarantee you that some of the players are taking a "let's fight!'' position because "fighting,'' or "competing,'' is what an athlete does. You do not reach the pinnacle of your athletic field without a sort of singular focus. You are not a person of compromise. You are not a person accustomed to losing. You believe your sheer will is enough to win …
DONUT 11: It is not.
The winners here will be the lawyers. Ah, billable hours! The process will be slow and expensive. (Hey, once there's no longer a union, who pays the union's legal fees? Kobe gonna loan-shark that one, too?) The spoiled millionaires and billionaires on both sides will be shocked to learn that their case won't get moved to the front of the line. They'll be stuck in legal limbo just like the rest of us ... sitting on hard wooden benches in hallways outside of courtrooms.
DONUT 12: As close as the two sides are in many ways, I fear the Chicken will continue. Stern's task now is to simultaneously calm and frighten the union, to make the fellas believe that he is serious about his Wednesday-deadline threat (which comes with a cancel-the-season shroud) while also helping them understand he's not the enemy but just a messenger.
Tough task. How real can the threat be if he keeps saying "this is the final threat'' and then wakes up the next morning to make a "final final threat''? And if he's all-powerful, why is he being reduced to the hawks' errand boy?
There is so much silly acrimony that threatens to suffocate sense ... Or didn't you hear the "huge story'' that Nick Young is standing up to Michael Jordan? ...
It's insanity on the part of the players. But even as I know they cannot win, I can see how it's Justified Insanity.