Long before David Stern became the Commissioner of the Association, he went to law school, passed the bar and was a practicing attorney for many years. One would rationalize that with his background as an attorney, that he would think through all the ramifications of his actions; before making any decision. However, by deciding to fine the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 when head coach Gregg Popovich decided to send four of his stars back home, rather than travel to Miami and take on the Heat, he has opened up a huge can of worms.
“USA Today,” reported Tuesday evening that a fan who attended the contest that night, has filed a class-action suit against the Spurs, for depriving him the chance to see San Antonio at full strength. Another attorney, Larry McGuinness filed the suit against the Spurs, claiming economic damages, because San Antonio took the floor with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Tony Parker went back home to rest before San Antonio hosted the Memphis Grizzlies on December 1.
Sending players home before a road-trip ends, has been common practice in both the NBA and MLB, as long as I can remember. Stern’s unprecedented move had many believe he overstepped his authority with the decision. That however, now takes a back-seat to a lawsuit, that in all probability, the plaintiff will win. How could a judge not side with the ticket-holder, after Stern’s ruling? That will most likely result in ever fan who was in attendance that night with what ever McGuiness receives, with the Spurs having to foot the bill for all the money the due the fans.
Although I am not an attorney, I had an off the record conversation with a lawyer after the story broke. What the lawyer pointed out to me in our conversation, is dependent on the statute of limitations; there could be a lot of new class-action suits against other clubs in the Association. If the Lakers sent Kobe Bryant home, the Celtics sent Kevin Garnett back to Boston, or the Heat sending LeBron back to South Beach, than fans who attended those games could take similar actions against those franchises. Once again, it is difficult to imagine, a judge ruling in favor of the squads, with Stern’s decision on the books.
So because of the Commissioner’s decision to fine San Antonio, for sending four starters home, rather than force them to play; could end up costing NBA teams, a lot of money. Most likely, that was not a scenario Stern thought of when he made his ruling.