Players file lawsuits in Minnesota, California

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2011 - 12:58 AM

The lawsuits seek damages for lost salary because of what the filers contend is an illegal price-fixing arrangement.

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Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players Association, and Derek Fisher, president of the NBA Players Association, spoke at a press conference Monday.

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NBA players took to the court Tuesday in Minneapolis.

U.S. District Court, not at Target Center.

The NBA Players Association filed a class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NBA and its 30 teams in the same venue where the NFL and its players fought last spring and summer.

The same Minneapolis law firm that helped represent the NFL players filed a lawsuit for all NBA players, but specifically named Timberwolves players Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Williams as well as Caron Butler and Ben Gordon as plaintiffs.

Players association lawyers also filed a separate lawsuit naming five plaintiffs, including superstars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, in a Northern California court on Tuesday.

The lawsuits ask a judge to award damages three times (more than $2 billion) the players' lost salaries caused by the owners' lockout of players, or what the lawsuit contends is an illegal "group boycott and price-fixing arrangement."

The Minneapolis lawsuit specifically names a player who is a free agent (Butler), two currently under NBA contracts (Tolliver and Gordon) and an unsigned rookie (Williams) on behalf of all other NBA players "similarly situated."

Why Minneapolis for one of the venues? Probably because it has been a favorable court for the NFL Players Association in similar cases through the years and because it generally schedules hearings more quickly than some other district courts.

New players association lawyer David Boies -- who represented the NFL last summer during a work stoppage and contentious labor negotiations that still saved a complete season -- said the cases have been filed to restore competitive free-market conditions.

He said more lawsuits could be brought and perhaps combined into one lawsuit in Northern California court. He also said he hoped an agreement can be reached before the lawsuits ever go to trial.

Boies talked to reporters Tuesday at the New York City headquarters of what used to be the players' union before it declared its collective bargaining sessions with the league dead and dissolved itself on Monday.

"We haven't seen Mr. Boies' complaint yet but it's a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said in a statement. "They warned us from the early days of these negotiations that they would sue us if we didn't satisfy them at the bargaining table, and they appear to have followed through on their threats."

Tuesday's lawsuit filings came on the day NBA players missed their first paychecks for the 2011-12 season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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