By Andrew Longstreth
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Basketball Association filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the players' union seeking a ruling that the lockout of players does not violate antitrust laws.
The NBA said the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, arises from the union's threatened use of antitrust litigation to extract a more favorable contract in ongoing negotiations.
"The union's improper threats of antitrust litigation are having a direct, immediate and harmful effect upon the ability of the parties to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement," the lawsuit said.
The NBA also said on Tuesday that it had filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union before the National Labor Relations Board, saying the players have failed to bargain in good faith.
William Hunter, executive director of the players' association, said in a statement that the NBA's actions "are just another example of their bad-faith bargaining, and we will seek the complete dismissal of the actions as they are totally without merit."
Throughout the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, the NBA said, the players' union has repeatedly threatened to renounce its role as the bargaining representative of the NBA players.
In its lawsuit, the NBA called the threat "an impermissible negotiating tactic" designed only to commence an antitrust challenge to the lockout and gain leverage in contract negotiations.
The NBA contended that the same tactic was pursued by the National Football League players' union in its most recent collective bargaining negotiations.
In his statement, Hunter said the union has not made any decision about renouncing its role as the collective bargaining representative of the players.
"We urge the NBA to engage with us at the bargaining table and to use more productively the short time we have left before the 2011-2012 season is seriously jeopardized," he said.
In its lawsuit, the NBA also said it is seeking a ruling that federal courts lack jurisdiction to block the lockout.
The lawsuit comes a day after NBA officials and players' representatives met for the first time since the league declared a lockout on July 1.
The dispute involves how to split some $4.3 billion in total revenues. The NBA says an overhaul of the pay structure is needed after 22 of the 30 NBA teams lost money last year.
If the dispute is not resolved before the beginning of the season this fall, it could result in the league's first work stoppage since 1998, when a lockout shortened the season to 50 games from 82.
The case is National Basketball Association v. National Basketball Players Association, et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-5369.
(Reporting by Andrew Longstreth; editing by Gerald E. McCormick and John Wallace)