NEW YORK — That picture shows the man who has been hired to take down David Stern, or at least force a settlement from the NBA commissioner.
And David Boies says he’s going to try to do it by using Stern’s own words against him.
In a briefing to a small group of NBA writers Tuesday, Boise outlined the strategy he will try to employ in an anti-trust lawsuit filed by NBA players in U.S. District Court in Northern California today. The plaintiffs are listed as Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Leon Powe.
Boies did not refer to the current labor impasse as a lockout, instead using the term “boycott” because of its legal definition relating to a case in which there is no union for the plaintiffs. That is the case here after the National Basketball Players Association filed a disclaimer of interest Monday, removing itself as the official bargaining agent for the players.
Boies said the collective bargaining process had ended, given the tenor and the substance of the statements made by commissioner David Stern. “Look at what the owners did — issued ultimatums, said take-it-or-leave-it, threatened punitive terms if the last offer is not accepted,” Boise said, adding that if a court reaches the conclusion that bargaining has indeed ended because of those statements, and if the court rules that the union made a good-faith filing of its disclaimer, then anti-trust rules will apply in this case and the owners will be at risk of triple damages.
“With David Stern saying don’t look for another offer because you’re not going to get one, that’s not collective bargaining, and there’s some distinct facts here,” Boies said. “I think it turned out to be a mistake. If you are in a poker game and you’re going to bluff, and the bluff works, you’re a hero. If somebody calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners have overplayed their hand.
“I will give the devil their due. They did a terrific job of holding a hard line and making the players make concession after concession after concession,” Boies said. “Greed is not only a terrible thing but a dangerous thing, and they are overplaying their hand by pushing the players beyond any line of reasonableness.”
Boise suggested that the NBA could lift its lockout and allow the season to begin without having a collective bargaining agreement in place, but he said that would only come as part of a settlement of the lawsuit that the players filed today, and it would amount to a resetting of the collective bargaining process, effectively sending the sides back to square one while allowing basketball to be played.
“We have not heard from them,” Boies said of the NBA, “but they have my number.”
The NBA released a brief statement: “We haven’t seen Mr. Boies complaint yet, but it’s a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate. They warned us from the early days of these negotiations that they would sue us if we didn’t satisfy us at the bargaining table, and they appear to have followed through on their threats.”