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NFLPA lawyer draws ire of NBA Commish

Jeffrey Kessler, Billy Hunter AP

During the gone-and-largely-forgotten NFL labor dispute, owners expressed exasperation with NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler.  Perceived by the league for years as gratuitously belligerent and hostile, some believed that Kessler wanted to lose a season in order to secure a gargantuan antitrust verdict, which could have been parlayed into partial ownership of the NFL’s teams by the players.

Eventually, NFLPA leadership eased Kessler into a less visible role.  Some believe that, with the labor situation now resolved, the NFLPA eventually will sever ties with him.

But Kessler has other clients.  He’s ears deep in the NBA lockout, working for the NBA Players Association.  And he seems to be emerging as a key figure in the talks, as the talks continue to go nowhere.

Kessler, pictured with NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, recently addressed the NBA’s pending bottom-line offer, in terms that invoked Bryant Gumbel’s controversial comments from last month.  “To present that in the context of ‘take it or leave it,’ in our view, that is not good faith,” Kessler told Amy Shipley of the Washington Post.  “Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers.”

In response, NBA Commissioner David Stern unloaded with both barrels.  “Kessler’s agenda is always to inflame and not to make a deal, even if it means injecting race and thereby insulting his own clients,” Stern told Shipley.  “He has been the single most divisive force in our negotiations and it doesn’t surprise me he would rant and not talk about specifics.  Kessler’s conduct is routinely despicable.”

Kessler’s conduct also is arguably inconsistent.  In 2006, when Kessler worked for late NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw, the players eventually made a “take it or leave it” offer to the league.  So what’s wrong with management using the same tool?

After the NFL lockout ended, a high-level source with one of the 32 teams predicted that Kessler would deploy against the NBA the leverage-through-litigation strategy that he wasn’t able to use against the NFL.  With increased talk of the NBA players belatedly using the same decertify-and-sue approach that the NFLPA utilized and with more than a week of the NBA season already gone, that prediction could be coming true.

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20 Responses to “NFLPA lawyer draws ire of NBA Commish”
  1. fin72 says: Nov 9, 2011 7:28 AM

    Stern and Kessler should be sent to a deserted island together where they can spend eternity torturing one another. What a-holes.

  2. txxxchief says: Nov 9, 2011 7:48 AM

    File under “Turd Watch.”

  3. tomsd1 says: Nov 9, 2011 7:49 AM

    Kessler is making the same tired noises as some of the lawyers for the NFL players did – and yes, he would just love to have a chance to bring a mega Anti-Trust suit. Even if he didn’t win the case, the publicity would be worth Billions to his ego.

    He is the picture boy for what is wrong with litigation in today’s legal system.

  4. skids003 says: Nov 9, 2011 7:53 AM

    Kessler is a turd. As long as he keeps stirring up the constituancy, he can bill them for more services. He’s not into it for his clients, too bad they don’t realize that yet.

  5. qdog112 says: Nov 9, 2011 8:19 AM

    Kessler is right. Stern rules like he is the NBA. Being just a dictator would be a step down from the perception Sterns gives. His arrogance is as undeniable as it is despicable.

    He does not treat the players as equals and that’s because they are not in his eyes, worthy of dealing with him on the same level.

  6. packhawk04 says: Nov 9, 2011 8:58 AM

    Im glad stern doesnt treat players as equals. Theyre not.

  7. flik44 says: Nov 9, 2011 9:07 AM

    I wish I had the two minutes of my life back before reading that article. Who gives a rat’s ass about pro basketball? We have NFL and college basketball. To quote Navin Johnson, “…and that’s all I need.”

  8. jgrange08 says: Nov 9, 2011 9:07 AM

    Great point kessler…except I’m pretty sure plantation owners never sat down and made a” take it or leave it offer” on splitting a multi-billion dollar profit with the plantation workers

  9. dukemarc says: Nov 9, 2011 9:07 AM

    While I agree Stern runs the NBA like it’s his kingdom with a “shorts man” complex on steriods. No way Kessler is right, he’s injecting his brand of venom into the arguement just as he tried last summer with the NFL. Derrick Fisher would be wise to fire Kessler and sue him for counterproductive conduct.

  10. cursedvikingfan says: Nov 9, 2011 9:16 AM

    Oh please! These NBA players have been getting away with robbery for years! Stephon Marbury collecting 10 million to sit on a bench all year or Allan Houston being one of the highest paid players in the NBA despite being retired due to injury. They should take the 50-50 deal and live with it. The guaranteed contracts they have been given are ridiculous. Then again, Latrell Sprewell couldn’t even begin to feed his family only making 8Mil per year! No sympathy for these players!

  11. bigjdve says: Nov 9, 2011 9:26 AM

    qdog – the problem with your statement is this.

    The players aren’t equals, they are employees, and he is the NBA in so much as the owners use him as their representative just as the players use Derek Fisher or Billy Hunter.

    I don’t really care either way with this lockout as I just went through this with football.

    I can’t wait for the players to understand that they are employees, that the teams have the right to set some conditions for work.

    These are supposed to be negotiations for the players to get a good deal, not for them to lay down the law.

  12. realitypolice says: Nov 9, 2011 9:44 AM

    Kessler hates professional sports.

    As a corporate lawyer, he despises the anti-trust exemptions pro leagues have and his ONLY agenda is to get one of these leagues into court.

    He could care less about the rights of the players. His goal is to remake the entire system of professional sports with no anti-trust exemptions and he will bounce from one labor dispute to another until he gets his day in court.

    If the NBA settles tomorrow, his next call is to the MLBPA, who are also in negotiations right now on a new CBA.

  13. gmen1987 says: Nov 9, 2011 9:50 AM

    Does anyone really miss the NBA? I think not except for the people who miss the UFL.

  14. ravensfreak00 says: Nov 9, 2011 9:51 AM

    I’m just glad that he didn’t cost the NFL this season. I could care less what he does with the NBA.

  15. db3300 says: Nov 9, 2011 9:55 AM

    “Stern rules like he is the NBA. Being just a dictator would be a step down…”

    Yes, playing in the NBA is EXACTLY like living in North Korea. You know, if you don’t want people to think you’re an idiot, you have to stop making stupid comments.

    Also, no one cares about the NBA. The only thing more boring is the WNBA.

  16. damnyankee13 says: Nov 9, 2011 10:04 AM

    as soon as the players union learns the difference between employees and partners we just may get a season, until then, if the players want a partnership in ownership, let them start their own league.

  17. chris6523 says: Nov 9, 2011 10:14 AM

    My boss gave me a take it or leave it offer last week. And the week before. And the month before. And the year before.

  18. gadgetdawg says: Nov 9, 2011 10:31 AM

    Anytime I hear someone say something like: “Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers.” I know that there is something wrong with that individual.

    From about 1600 something through 1865ish millions of folks here in America were held against their wills and forced to work hard labor for their entire lives. Many were horribly mistreated and many died on those plantations.

    This fellow compares that to folks arguing over whether they will earn 48 or 51% of a multi-billion dollar business venture’s cash stream (among other things)? He is either one of the most ignorant people on the planet or an incredibly messed up human being.

  19. charger383 says: Nov 9, 2011 10:57 AM

    It would not upset me to see the NBA fold

  20. CKL says: Nov 9, 2011 11:47 AM

    Adrian Peterson should sue Kessler for stealing his idea.
    Somewhere, bobwhitequail is grinning, and tommyf15 is fighting the “good fight” on some NBA fan forum.

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