Headline NBA Players Sports Law

Op-Ed: What If Teams Colluded Against Jason Collins?

The following guest post is by Travis Bell, an NBPA and CFLPA certified Contract Advisor and owner of The Seven Bridges Group based in Newport Beach, CA.

Jason Collins against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Wizards defeated the Suns 88-79. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Collins recently came out of the closet and is currently a free-agent hoping to land with an NBA team. Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

While perusing my LinkedIn account the other day, I came across an interesting question posed by one of my connections. The question was whether or not the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) provided for protection for Jason Collins to prevent teams from colluding to not offer him a contract and in effect forcing him out of the league.

Collins, as you know, recently announced he is gay. While the outward comments have been mostly positive there have been some who oppose not only the announcement but the timing of it.

Now as Jason is a free agent the question of collusion has come up and I will attempt to address it.

Below is an excerpt from the 2011 CBA of the National Basketball Association.


Section 1. No Collusion.

Subject to Section 2 below, no NBA Team, its employees or agents, will enter into any contracts, combinations or conspiracies, express or implied, with the NBA or any other NBA Team, their employees or agents: (a) to negotiate or not to negotiate with any Veteran or Rookie; (b) to submit or not to submit an Offer Sheet to any Restricted Free Agent; (c) to offer or not to offer a Player Contract to any Free Agent; (d) to exercise or not to exercise a Right of First Refusal; or (e) concerning the terms or conditions of employment offered to any Veteran or Rookie.

So as you can see there is a specific provision addressing collusion by all parties associated. But for those of us who are have Esq or JD behind their names know and realize that the first answer usually leads to more questions and therefore more answers.

Therefore, the following is a statement of Non-Collusive Conduct.

Section 2. Non-Collusive Conduct.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of conduct that shall not be deemed a violation of Section 1 above:

(a) the formulation and negotiation of collective bargaining proposals;

(b) agreements between NBA Teams necessary to the assignment of a Player Contract of a Veteran or the assignment of the exclusive negotiating rights to a Draft Rookie, where such assignment is contingent upon (i) the signing by the Veteran of an amendment to an existing Player Contract (including, for example, an Extension), or (ii) the signing by the Draft Rookie of a new Player Contract; provided, however, that if such contingency is fulfilled by the Veteran entering into an amended Player Contract (including, for example, an Extension) or the Draft Rookie entering into a new Player Contract, this subsection shall only apply if the assignment is actually consummated;

(c) an agreement between NBA Teams concerning the signing of a new Player Contract by a Veteran Free Agent with his Prior Team, where such agreement is necessary for the subsequent assignment of the new Player Contract between the agreeing Teams; provided, however, that this Section 2(c) shall apply only if the subsequent assignment is consummated, and only if the agreement and the new Player Contract comply with the provisions of Article VII, Section 8(e);

(d) conduct authorized by the terms and conditions of the NBA Draft (as set forth in Article X above);

(e) conduct authorized by any provision of this Agreement or conduct by the NBA League Office, undertaken in good faith, that reflects a reasonable interpretation of this Agreement or a Player Contract; and

(f) any action taken by the NBA League Office to exclude from the NBA, suspend or discipline any player for any reason authorized or permitted by any provision of this Agreement. (This subsection, however, shall not affect any other rights of any player or the Players Association to contest such action.)

So, in essence if someone has an agenda, they will find a way to possibly do harm. It’s a way of life and even more so the higher the profile or the lower the character of the conspiring individual.

Here’s hoping that we won’t have to address this collusion issue in the future as Jason’s career should be decided by his basketball merits and nothing else.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

One reply on “Op-Ed: What If Teams Colluded Against Jason Collins?”

This guest post is pretty light on analysis, unless there is more coming. If two or more teams agreed not to offer Collins a contract because of his sexual orientation, it would violate the CBA’s provisions prohibiting collusion. If any team decided not to offer Collins a contract because of his sexual orientation, that would likely constitute unlawful discrimination. Proving these things would be a challenge for Collins.

Comments are closed.