Union executive director Billy Hunter isn’t pleased with the rules designed to curb player complaining and promised legal action.
“The new unilateral rule changes are an unnecessary and unwarranted overreaction on the league’s behalf,” Hunter said in a statement released Thursday on behalf of the Players Association. “We have not seen any increase in the level of ‘complaining’ to the officials and we believe that players as a whole have demonstrated appropriate behavior toward the officials.
“Worse yet, to the extent the harsher treatment from the referees leads to a stifling of the players’ passion and exuberance for their work, we fear these changes may actually harm our product. The changes were made without proper consultation with the Players Association, and we intend to file an appropriate legal challenge.”
An NBPA official said such legal action would likely take place during the next 20-30 days. Four years ago, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board over a similar behavior-related clean-up effort by the league.
NBA officials weren’t immediately available to comment on Hunter’s statement.
League referees are operating under stricter guidelines designed to limit player reaction, both verbal and non-verbal, towards officials. The NBA’s desire to drastically reduce what it deems as excessive complaining falls under its “Respect for the Game” initiative. The league office has said that fan research suggests that NBA players complain too much, especially compared to other pro athletes.
Officials have been briefing teams throughout the preseason on what would constitute a violation, and therefore a technical foul, under the new guidelines. Among the points of emphasis: Players are no longer allowed to excessively question referees and engage in an overt act, such as an air punch or exaggerated clap to protest a call.
The changes were front and center in Wednesday’s New York-Boston game at Madison Square Garden. Four technicals were called in span of 16 seconds of the second quarter, which included the ejection of Celtics star Kevin Garnett.
Technicals are not only easier to get, they’re now twice as costly. Players and coaches are docked $2,000 for each the first five techs of the season, $3,000 each for the next five and $4,000 each for 11-15. After that it’s $5,000 each. Suspensions also start with the 16th technical.