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Kessler’s removal from talks leads to NBA labor deal

Jeffrey+Kessler+IN8qYVQbfYOm Getty Images

It’s been a bad year for Jeffrey Kessler.

At times marginalized and at other times flat-out removed from the NFL labor talks despite years of service to the NFL Players Association, the ability of the league and the union to strike a deal without his involvement fueled the perception that his zeal and belligerence at times crosses the line into the realm of counterproductivity.

Amid speculation that the peacetime, post-CBA NFLPA will utilize Kessler’s services far less frequently, Kessler had some consolation:  He was still the chief outside counsel for the NBA Players Association.

But Kessler’s tactics, which included a public spat with Commissioner David Stern after comparing the treatment of NBA players to slavery, ultimately resulted in the NBA Players Association following the lead of the NFLPA and putting Kessler on the bench.

Not long thereafter, the two sides struck a deal.

While some would claim I’m the only one who points out negative information about Jeffrey Kessler, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports had this to say regarding the move:  “Several ownership sources were enthusiastic over the removal of polarizing Players Association counsel, Jeffrey Kessler, as the players’ lead negotiator.  As one ownership source said recently, ‘Remember, the NFL got its deal done when [Kessler] finally was out of the room.'”

That said, Kessler deserves partial credit for getting the situation resolved.  He orchestrated the decision to shut down the NBA Players Association and to file an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, taking a page from an NFLPA playbook that he authored.  And it was a stroke of genius to retain David Boies, who represented the NFL in its antitrust battle against the NFLPA, before the NBA could hire him.

Sure, Boies’ decision to jump to the other side of the “v” could have been problematic once things he said, verbally or in writing, while representing the NFL were used against NBA players.  But it never got to that point.  The players’ decision to push the proverbial red button caused the NBA to move from its bottom-line position, paving the way for an agreement.

And so the key to using Kessler is to best understand his role.  He’s a litigator, not a negotiator.  Let him be the bad cop to create leverage, and then let the good cop come in and turn that leverage into a win-win accord.

Either way, the NBA will be back on Christmas Day.  And I can go back to ignoring pro basketball completely.

UPDATE 10:14 p.m. ET:  Contrary to multiple media reports, a source with knowledge of the true state of affairs tells PFT that Kessler was not removed from these talks.  Per the source, Kessler was in California visiting his new grandchild, who was born earlier this week.  Per the source, Kessler was involved in the talks constantly via phone on Friday, and he returned to New York on Saturday to assist with the final details of the deal.

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29 Responses to “Kessler’s removal from talks leads to NBA labor deal”
  1. 730boy says: Nov 26, 2011 10:24 AM

    proFOOTBALLtalk.com?

  2. rlca says: Nov 26, 2011 10:28 AM

    DITTO, DITTO, DITTO!!!

  3. dabkg says: Nov 26, 2011 10:29 AM

    ” And I can go back to ignoring pro basketball completely.”

    Best part of that article right there.

  4. pitofzombies94 says: Nov 26, 2011 10:31 AM

    No care EVER!!!! NBA is a joke basketball is not even a fun sport to watch. Soccer is way better then this trash.

  5. massappeal12345 says: Nov 26, 2011 10:35 AM

    The problem with kessler is that he makes the fans think that he really sucks. Then we think some more and think how much those overpaid players make, and they suck too.

    And the owners suck because they overpay those prima donna’s way too much.

    And all those tattoos on HD suck…..

  6. qdog112 says: Nov 26, 2011 10:42 AM

    Everyone knows Stern is a #1 grade A-hole and he is the one who, through dictatorial tactics, held up the agreement. He couldn’t get his way so he acted like a spoiled brat and made ridiculous demands. Anyone who thinks otherwise is nuts.

  7. palinforpresidentofnorthkorea says: Nov 26, 2011 10:46 AM

    Kessler’s role was to blow up the season, de-certify the union, and start filing in various courts. Basically, be a snarling dog, and pile pressure on the owners to settle. We saw the same script play our in the NFLPA v NFL.

    Kessler played his role and didn’t fail. He may have pissed everyone off but he gets paid very well to do exactly that.

  8. noquickreactionshere says: Nov 26, 2011 10:47 AM

    Interesting but who is the NBA person I keep hearing about? Why doesn’t he just give a spare key to a friend so he doesn’t get locked out anymore?

  9. KIR says: Nov 26, 2011 10:49 AM

    Why is it that people who say they ignore basketball can always tell you what happened the next day after an important game between great NBA teams and stars? “Shrugz”

  10. tommyf15 says: Nov 26, 2011 11:03 AM

    massappeal12345 says:
    The problem with kessler is that he makes the fans think that he really sucks. Then we think some more and think how much those overpaid players make, and they suck too.

    And the owners suck because they overpay those prima donna’s way too much.

    Obviously your background and education on basic economics is underwhelming.

    It’s funny how the media has turned the public on Kessler as a this mean, evil person that did harm to labor peace, moreso than the NFL and NBA owners that actually waged war against the playoff with their lockouts and outrageous demands.

  11. tommyf15 says: Nov 26, 2011 11:07 AM

    I also love how people NEED to weigh in and let us know that they don’t like basketball.

    Call me crazy, but when it comes to topics that I don’t care about…I don’t read, let alone comment.

  12. pastabelly says: Nov 26, 2011 11:11 AM

    Kessler is more obnoxious than anything. But that makes him no different than just about everything else associated with the NBA. Fighting over 49 or 51% in this economy is a joke considering how they were and will be making.

  13. ramofsteel says: Nov 26, 2011 11:19 AM

    I’m glad the NBA is back. After football is over, and before MLB spring training, there is nothing going on in the sports world. NHL isn’t on enough to generate interest, tho I try on the NBC games.

    NBA games on Tuesdays and Wednsdays are better than watching American Idol anyway. THUNDER UP!!!!

  14. t1mmy10 says: Nov 26, 2011 11:44 AM

    “It’s been a bad year for Jeffrey Kessler.”

    That’s because he deserves it. From an outsider looking in it seems like he played a major role in trying to force the sides to settle in court, which would have undoubtedly lead to each league’s season being cancelled and potentially irreversible DAMAGE, not improvement, to the format in which the leagues run (aka no more draft, etc.).

    I doubt he was acting in the best interest of his clients and more likely acting in the best interest of himself, motivated by looking for a huge payday. These actions have to violate some sort of moral code lawyers have. He should be investigated by whatever body governs over lawyers.

    @ tommyf15
    outrageous demands? so it’s outrageous when an owner insists he makes more than his player…whom he employs?

  15. 8drinkminimum says: Nov 26, 2011 12:07 PM

    Kessler fails in the NFL negotiations.

    Kessler fails in the NBA negotiations.

    Next stop:
    Working for Obama in that cesspool called the Naional Labor Relations Board.

  16. bearskoolaid1985 says: Nov 26, 2011 12:11 PM

    As I said during the NFL stoppage that Kessler was NFL/NBA hater and all he wanted was to screw both leagues to make a name for himself. He has a Hitlerian complex and both leagues should permanently distance themselves from him.

  17. joetoronto says: Nov 26, 2011 12:23 PM

    He’s just doing what all lawyers do, looking out for himself.

    The more messed up things become, the more money he makes.

  18. tommyf15 says: Nov 26, 2011 12:24 PM

    t1mmy10 says:
    @ tommyf15
    outrageous demands? so it’s outrageous when an owner insists he makes more than his player…whom he employs?

    Is that what the NBA lockout was all about? The owners just wanted to make more than the players?

    Come on, admit it- you didn’t follow the lockout, and you don’t know what you’re talking about. Fess up.

  19. sageyoung says: Nov 26, 2011 12:45 PM

    It’s been a bad year for Jeffrey Kessler. ??

    Since he’s spent most of the year working overtime hours at a no-doubt ungodly rate of $500/hr. plus, it sounds as though he’s had a very GOOD year!

    Yes, he comes out of this looking like a jerk- something he no doubt is, but there is always a market for jerk lawyers. All this notoriety has been good marketing.

  20. tommyf15 says: Nov 26, 2011 12:48 PM

    bearskoolaid1985 says:
    As I said during the NFL stoppage that Kessler was NFL/NBA hater and all he wanted was to screw both leagues to make a name for himself. He has a Hitlerian complex and both leagues should permanently distance themselves from him.

    You were wrong then, and you’re wrong now.

    The owners want is a fixed, restricted market. A virtual mirror of communism.

    What Kessler believes in is a free market where the owners can keep as much money as they want and pay the players whatever they choose to.

    If you complain about the NFL or NBA players unions, Kessler is your man. He doesn’t want unions either.

  21. snh7997 says: Nov 26, 2011 1:46 PM

    Love this line…
    Either way, the NBA will be back on Christmas Day.  And I can go back to ignoring pro basketball completely.

  22. localbandhero says: Nov 26, 2011 3:09 PM

    It’s very telling that I found out the NBA is coming back from a football site. I saw nothing on Facebook (as opposed to when the NFL deal was struck).

  23. dragonfly99 says: Nov 26, 2011 5:01 PM

    It’s pretty obvious the only thing important to Jeffrey Kessler is what’s best for Jeffrey Kessler. After his recent public display,who would hire this high paid fool?

  24. magnuminsp says: Nov 26, 2011 5:36 PM

    What is the “NBA”?:)

  25. sterling7 says: Nov 26, 2011 5:54 PM

    No one gives a rat’s ass about the NBA or the NHL ever being on strike, why?- because no one gives a rat’s ass about the NBA or the NHL. You don’t have to believe me, just look at their ratings. Why would anyone even entertain the thought of owning an NBA or NHL team when all they’re good at is losing money-ask the owners?

  26. backindasaddle says: Nov 26, 2011 5:55 PM

    Either way, the NBA will be back on Christmas Day. And I can go back to ignoring pro basketball completely.
    **********************************************************************

    You are by no means alone.

  27. tdk24 says: Nov 26, 2011 6:35 PM

    Timberwolves in 7!!!

  28. wyrdawg says: Nov 26, 2011 9:47 PM

    Thinkin’ he just wanted to be a dentist…. ….. ..

  29. rajbais says: Nov 27, 2011 4:37 AM

    That’s good that his stupidity didn’t TOTALLY get in the way!!!!

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