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NBA Players Move Legal Fight To Minnesota

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(credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

(credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (AP) – After filing two separate antitrust lawsuits against the league in two different states, NBA players are consolidating their efforts and have turned to the courts in Minnesota as their chosen venue.

A group of named plaintiffs including Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash, Kevin Durant and Chauncey Billups filed an amended federal lawsuit against the league in Minnesota on Monday, hoping the courts there will be as favorable to them as they have been to NFL players in the past.

The locked-out players filed class-action antitrust suits against the league last Tuesday in California and Minnesota. But the California complaint was withdrawn Monday. Players’ lawyer David Boies said he believes the combined case will move more quickly in Minnesota.

“The docket is less congested and they have a good track record of handling cases like this,” Boies said.

Federal court in Minnesota was the venue for all NFL labor disputes that reached the courts for the past two decades. The NFL players enjoyed several victories over the owners there, most recently when U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued a temporary injunction this summer that the lifted the NFL’s owner-imposed lockout. That decision was stayed and eventually overturned on appeal by the 8th Circuit in St. Louis.

NBA owners locked out the players July 1 and the labor strife between the two sides has forced games to be canceled through Dec. 15.

“We assume that Mr. Boies was not happy with either the reassignment of the case from Oakland to San Francisco or the fact that the new judge scheduled the first conference for March 2012,” said Rick Buchanan, NBA executive vice president and general counsel. “This is consistent with Mr Boies’ inappropriate shopping for a forum that he can only hope will be friendlier to his baseless legal claims.”

The players have offered nearly $3 billion in concessions by essentially agreeing to a 50-50 split of basketball-related income, but after being unable to reach an accord on certain system issues, the players disbanded the union last week. That set the stage for the increasingly bitter labor dispute to move from the negotiating table to the courtroom, which could jeopardize the entire 2011-12 season.

Disbanding the union allowed the players to file an antitrust lawsuit against the league, a move the NFL players used as well. Rajon Rondo, Caron Butler, Baron Davis, Ben Gordon, Kawhi Leonard, Leon Powe, Anthony Randolph, Sebastian Telfair, Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Williams are the other named plaintiffs in the Minnesota lawsuit.

“Although the NBPA made concession after concession, including concessions that would cost its members more than one billion dollars over a six-year period, the NBA essentially refused to negotiate its basic 2007 demands, refusing to back off its demand for large salary reductions and harsh player restraints,” the lawsuit alleged.

Boies said consolidating the two lawsuits saves the players weeks of court time that would have otherwise been devoted to deciding a venue.

“If we had not done it, at some point, the courts would have done it,” Boies said.

And with the first month and a half of the season already canceled, time is of the essence.

The owners have already filed a lawsuit of their own in the Southern District of New York, a venue that has issued several NBA-friendly rulings over the years. The owners could file a motion to have the Minnesota case moved to New York because of that.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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