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Sunday, January 21, 2007
NBA Activates its "Security Forces" to Prohibit Players from Frequenting Nightclubs
According to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, the NBA has "ordered its security forces" to come up with a list of nightclubs that should be made off-limits to players:
In the wake of the Broncos' Darrent Williams' murder in Denver, and other shootings in that city involving pro athletes, the NBA this past week ordered its security forces in all 29 cities to come up with a list of clubs and other night spots that should be made off-limits to players. Once the clubs are identified, with the help of local law enforcement, the league will send a directive to teams mandating that players avoid those spots or be subject to a substantial fine.Setting aside, for a moment, the dubious merits of this policy, it does not appear to enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining. The closest textual support it may obtain from the NBA-NPA collective bargaining agreement derives from Article VI, Section 11, which delineates "league investigations" into player behavior:
Players are required to cooperate with investigations of alleged player misconduct conducted by the NBA. Failure to so cooperate, in the absence of a reasonable apprehension of criminal prosecution, will subject the player to reasonable fines and/or suspensions imposed by the NBA.I suppose the NBA could characterize the policy as reflecting a broader and extended league investigation into player behavior, and that such an investigation has been contemplated by the respective parties to the CBA. There are several other sections from Article VI that might also lend the NBA textual support, but none appear sufficiently relevant. And without collectively-bargained support, it, like any non-collectively-bargained working condition, would be subject to antitrust review--and as Joe Rosen and I detail in our Case Western Reserve Law Review article, antitrust law is not especially tolerant of unilaterally-imposed league prohibitions on working conditions, particularly given the existence of the labor exemption, which is premised on the belief that employees are better off negotiating together than individually, particularly when negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions. Also expect a possible objection from NBPA head Billy Hunter, who might, on behalf of the NBPA, file an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB, particularly if this nightclub prohibition--which, according to Lawrence, will enjoy police assistance--constitutes "spying on employees."
As to the merits of the policy, I suspect it will strike most players, fans, and media as patently paternalistic, even more so than the dress code (and this is a league, after-all, featuring a commissioner who calls NBA players "these kids"). While the NBA understandably has a vested interest in seeing its players represent their teams and league in a law-abiding way--and to do so at all times--going to a night club isn't against the law (although players obviously have to be 21 or older to drink there). It's an activity that some of the players, who are grown men, like to do, just like other adults like to do.
And if the NBA's sole concern is one based on a safety analysis of players at nightclubs, then shouldn't the league also prohibit them from drinking alcohol or eating fattening foods? How about if those same players travel back home to where they grew up--some of them are from some pretty bad neighborhoods, should those neighborhoods be put off-limits, too?
Update: Skip Oliva over at the Voluntary Trade Blog checks in with a thoughtful response to this post:
Even if Stern’s idea has merit, why does it have to be imposed by the league office on all 29 teams? It’s better to leave this type of player conduct issue to the individual clubs. Stern’s centralism actually makes it more difficult for individual clubs–particularly coaches, who have far less power on most teams than star players–to maintain their own discipline. Paternalism reduces the incentive for individuals to take greater responsibility for their own actions.Update 2: David Wilson over at Sports On My Mind has a substantive analysis of this topic.