As the NBA Players Association enters another round of negotiations today with owners in hopes of ending the four-month lockout, two Celtics participated in a conference call last week to discuss decertification of the union.
Ray Allen told the Globe last night that teammate Paul Pierce organized the call of dozens of players to discuss the possibility of breaking up the union if a deal is not reached soon. According to Allen, there were in fact two conference calls, the other on Thursday, in which Allen did not participate.
There has been speculation that the calls were a sign that many players are dissatisfied with the union, including executive director Billy Hunter. But Allen said that was not the case.
“I don’t know what kind of feedback or backlash came from it, but I didn’t think there was a need for anybody to panic whatsoever, either on our side as a players’ union or as owners,’’ he said. “I thought the call was strictly [to explore options].’’
Hunter has been asked several times over the last few months about the possibility of decertification, which would allow the players to file individual class-action lawsuits against the NBA, claiming they are not being allowed to work. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was among the lead plaintiffs in a similar suit against the NFL during its lockout. The drawback is a ruling could take months, and NBA owners may not be interested in negotiating during any period of decertification.
According to union bylaws, 30 percent of the players would need to be in favor of a decertification vote to begin the process. The National Labor Relations Board then could take up to 45 days to decide whether to organize a vote.
“We talked about where we were and what guys thought about the situation that we’re in,’’ said Allen. “We talked about decertification because where we stood at that moment, we didn’t know when the next meeting was. That was one option, decertification. I don’t think anybody on the call assumed that’s what we were going to do.’’
The sides appeared close to striking a deal last week, but the sticking point remains basketball-related income, with the owners seeking at least a 50-50 split, while the players want 52-48. One percentage point equates to about $40 million per season, and now there is word that smaller-market owners may be pushing commissioner David Stern to rescind the 50-50 offer today.
“We have complete faith in our union to get the job done,’’ Allen said. “I don’t know what was said [Thursday] on the call, but I do know from the guys that were on the call [last week], nobody was anxious to pull the trigger, like we’ve got to decertify now. Most of the guys [asked], ‘What exactly would we be doing if we decertified?’ I don’t think anybody was panicking.’’
Pierce has participated in negotiations, and was one of the more vocal players on the earlier conference call, but Allen said his teammate was not trying to overthrow the union.
“I don’t think he was frustrated,’’ Allen said. “I don’t think he had any malicious intent when he got everybody together. Paul’s ready to play and I just saw his sense of urgency in trying to move this thing forward and really just try to inform everybody.’’
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.