As expected, NBA players have filed a class action suit against the league and the 30 teams that comprise the NBA. It is being reported that the players will file two separate suits; one is in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, and the other is expected to be in California. These forums were likely picked because of their historical friendliness to players' associations.
If you would like to peruse the complaint filed in Minnesota, you can find it HERE.
If the text of the complaint is a bit sleep-inducing for you or you just want to get the snapshot version, here you go:
1. Who are the parties?
- Caron Butler
- Ben Gordon
- Anthony Tolliver
- Derrick Williams
- Count I: Violation of Section I of the Sherman Act. The Sherman Act, which stems all the way back to the late 1800's, was enacted to prevent parties from making agreements that would unreasonably restrict or have an anti-competitive effect on market competition. In this case, the players argue that the current lockout constitutes a "group boycott," an "agreement among competitors to eliminate competition for the services of major league professional basketball players in the United States and to refuse to pay contractually-owed compensation to players currently under contract with the NBA Defendants for the 201I season and beyond, in violation of Section I of the Sherman Act."
Previously, when the NBPA was in existence, the owners were protected from this Sherman Act by way of a non-statutory labor exemption to antitrust laws. However, now that there is no labor union that offers the owners this exemption, the owners' lockout automatically turns into an agreed upon anti-competitive restraint on the players' ability to perform their chosen profession.
- Count II: Breach of contract. When the lockout began, the players that were previously under contract with their respective teams did not suddenly lose the contracts they had signed. The players argue that those contracts still must be honored, and the owners are "preventing members of the Under-Contract Subclass from working as professional basketball players and will refuse to pay them the compensation mandated by their existing contracts." This is a violation of the players' respective state contract laws.
- Count III: Tortious interference with contract. Similar to Count II, this tortious interference involves one party intentionally damaging another party's ability to fulfill its contractually mandated obligations. The players are arguing that, by way of the lockout, the owners have intentionally prevented them from fulfilling their contractual obligation and are "being deprived of the ability to practice and compete as NBA players during their very short NBA careers."
- Count IV: Tortious interference with prospective contractual relations. An extension from Count III, this Count argues that the owners not only prevent players under contract from performing, but also prevents unsigned players, be they free agents or rookies, from entering NBA contracts and performing. "Absent these restrictions, these Plaintiffs and subclass members, in reasonable probability, would have entered into contracts with NBA teams."
- Court declaration that the group boycott and other anticompetitive measures are a violation of Section I of the Sherman Act. As a result of the damages incurred by way of these violations, the Plaintiffs want treble damages sustained.
- Plaintiffs want a permanent injunction against the group boycott and other anticompetitive restrictions.
- Plaintiffs want damages they sustained as a result of the breach of contract.
- Plaintiffs want damages they sustained as a result of the tortious interference with their contracts.
- Plaintiffs want damages they sustained as a result of the tortious interference with their prospective contractual relations.
- Plaintiffs want the owners to make good on their outstanding contracts.
Finally, since this is a Thunder blog: