The U.S. District Court in Oakland is at least for now one of several battlegrounds in the dispute between the National Basketball Association and locked-out players.
One of two antitrust lawsuits filed Tuesday against the NBA and its 30 teams was lodged in the Oakland federal court by attorney David Boies on behalf of four players, including Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and free agent Leon Powe of Oakland, who signed a contract in March with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Four other players filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota.
The lawsuits claim the lockout, which began July 1, is an illegal boycott and that the teams conspired to fix prices in player contracts in violation of antitrust lawsuit.
Under antitrust law, the lawsuits seek compensation of triple the amount of salary lost by the players this season. The suits seek to be certified as class actions.
The Oakland lawsuit claims, “The express purpose of defendants’ group boycott and price fixing is to reduce the salaries, terms, benefits and conditions available in the market for players.”
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said, “It’s a shame the players have chosen to litigate rather than negotiate.”
The suits came after the National Basketball Players Association disbanded as a union and transformed itself into a trade association, thus ending collective bargaining attempts and enabling the players to challenge the lockout under antitrust law as individual employees.
A third lawsuit was filed against the now-disbanded union by the New York-based NBA in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in August. That lawsuit asks the court to rule that the lockout is legal.
All three lawsuits, and any others that may be filed in other federal courts, could be combined in the same court if a federal judicial panel on multidistrict litigation decides that it would be practical and efficient to do so.
The panel would decide which court would handle the cases.
In the meantime, the Oakland case was initially assigned to a federal magistrate judge, but at the request of the players, it will reassigned to a presidentially appointed district judge, according to a clerk’s notice posted in the court’s docket Wednesday.
That judge, who had not yet been named as of early Thursday, will be randomly chosen and could be based in either the Oakland or San Francisco branches of the U.S. District Court for Northern California.
The Oakland-based Golden State Warriors is one of the 30 teams named as defendants in the case. Team spokesman Dan Martinez referred request for comment to the NBA.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News