Continued from page 1

The big hurdles remain the revenue split and the owners’ desire to limit teams who pay the luxury tax from using the midlevel exception to sign veteran free agents, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

Wade is one of a handful of big-name stars _ Boston’s Paul Pierce and Orlando’s Dwight Howard were among the others _ to sit in on the conference calls to discuss decertification.

The move could swing some negotiating leverage to the players, antitrust attorney David Scupp said Friday. But he added that taking the fight to court through an antitrust lawsuit also would make it difficult to resolve the matter in time to have a season.

“Once you get the courts involved and you end the collective bargaining process, it does slow things down and it does make it a little bit more complicated,” said Scupp, who works at New York-based law firm Constantine Cannon.

The first month of the NBA season, originally scheduled to tip off Tuesday, already has been canceled, with more games on the chopping block if an agreement is not reached soon.

During the NFL lockout this summer, the NFLPA did decertify, which allowed a group of players to file an antitrust lawsuit against the league.

Labor unions are granted exemptions to U.S. antitrust laws that prohibit staples to their economic models such as salary caps and college player drafts because they are agreed upon under collective bargaining. If there is no union, antitrust laws would once again apply.

“It gave the NFL players another weapon,” said John Hancock, a labor law expert with the Detroit firm of Butzel Long. “It did give the players something more to hold on to. But ultimately, both sides just got together and decided, `This is silly. We don’t have any life-or-death issues. Why are we doing this?”

Whereas NFL players and owners were fighting over how to split billions of dollars of revenue, the NBA says it lost $300 million last season and that only eight of its 30 clubs made money.

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark said he believes disbanding the union helped the NFL players.

“It’s not going to help them, though,” Clark said. “Their owners are really losing money. Our owners weren’t.”

Even if players do go forward with decertification, their chances of success in the courtroom could be harmed by their football brethren’s experience there this summer. A federal judge in St. Paul, Minn., initially ruled that the NFL union’s antitrust case had merit and issued an injunction that forced the league to lift the lockout.

But that ruling was overturned on appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court in St. Louis, and the two sides came to agreement on a new deal in July after losing only one preseason game.

“Given what happened over the summer with the NFL players, the NBA players have an uphill battle toward getting the lockout (lifted),” Scupp said.

The NBA already has filed a lawsuit seeking to retain their non-statutory labor exemption even if the players dissolve the union. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe did not immediately issue a ruling when the two sides met in court this week.

Story Continues →