The lessons of Jeffrey Kessler

August, 3, 2011
8/03/11
11:25
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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Attorney Jeffrey Kessler is the big name in sports labor legal circles, and the pioneer of the antitrust litigation that has had industry-changing results in football.

He represents the National Basketball Players Association at the moment, which seems to bother the owners, who mentioned Kessler by name four times in their recent complaint in federal courts. The owners say, essentially, that if Kessler's on the scene, antitrust trouble looms. They're asking the judge to head off such action at the pass.

I'm not so sure Kessler's presence predetermines decertification as alleged. For one thing, you only have to listen to the union bigwigs to know that "the nuclear option" of decertification is simply not their favorite. The rhetoric is much more enthusiastic for a negotiated solution.

Not to mention, Kessler has been on the union payroll in the past, but they have never decertified before.

And then there's this insight from lawyer and ESPN.com senior writer Lester Munson:
The owners might be underestimating Kessler. He is a creative and brilliant advocate, and he is not limited to a one-trick pattern. Kessler and the players could have some surprises for the owners. My guess is that there will be no decertification and no litigation from the players. But that does not mean we will see a complete NBA season. It means that negotiation will replace litigation as the centerpiece of the lockout.

Henry Abbott | email

TrueHoop, NBA

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