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Union makes big move without polling members

11/15/2011

The last time the NBA and the players association met, the meeting ended early Friday morning with an offer from the league. The NBA then sent that offer in writing to every player, and quietly prayed that the union would let the players vote on it, expecting it would pass and the NBA season would begin.

It never happened, however. Instead of putting the decision to 450 players, the union put the decision to 30 player representatives who, the union says, were unanimous in rejecting the deal and taking new legal action.

As soon as that decision was announced, I asked union spokesman Dan Wasserman, who was standing in the back of the room next to attorney Jeffrey Kessler, why the union was turning to the group of 30 representatives.

The union has three player bodies it can consult: The executive committee, the 30 elected representatives and the full membership. Why that middle body?

I was asking what I thought was a fairly boring question. I would have been satisfied with a response about by-laws or somesuch. But Wasserman and Kessler blew up. I couldn't even finish the question before both were loud, gruff and dismissive.

The gist of the response was that you cannot give your adversary direct access to the membership. "That's not how any union in America, that I'm aware of, operates," said Kessler. If the NBA is just going to send offers straight to the players, why even have a union? The idea is that the union is savvier, and knows a good deal when it sees one. And only when the union is sure that the deal is in players' best interests will they present it to the workers.

Rockets guard Kevin Martin, by text on Monday morning, said he didn't care to be represented that way: "I think it's fair for every player to have a vote, because we're all grown men and its time for the players to control their career decisions, and not one player per team. If it comes down to a final decision, you got to be fair."

He added that other players he had talked to may or may not have voted for the deal the NBA had on the table, but "most feel like we're entitled to a vote!"

To hear David Stern tell it, skipping that vote was a key misstep. Speaking to ESPN's "SportsCenter" he said: "The union decided in its infinite wisdom that the proposal would not be presented to membership. Obviously, Mr. Kessler got his way and we are about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA."