Updated: Jul 20, 2022
Prior to Thursday night’s game between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, reports surfaced that former Sixer Ben Simmons is expected to file a grievance against the organization. Simmons and his representatives are seeking to utilize his return as a member of the Brooklyn Nets to support his claim. Specifically, in his grievance, Simmons will argue that the negative publicity and targeting from fans and the organization furthered his mental health issues.
Simmons’s Stint with the Sixers
The Sixers selected Simmons with the number one pick in the 2016 NBA Draft after Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game at Louisiana State University. Unfortunately for Simmons and the Sixers, Simmons was injured prior to the 2016-2017 season, forcing him to sit out the year. Simmons bounced back in the 2017-2018 season and won the Rookie of the Year Award. For the following three seasons, Simmons was named an All-Star.
After the Sixers were bounced from the playoffs last season, fans and coaches questioned whether Simmons could lead them to the Sixers’ ultimate goal of an NBA Championship. The negative publicity and decreasing faith in Simmons’s abilities led to Simmons demanding a trade from the Sixers. With the Sixers unable to find a trade partner, Simmons sat out most of the season citing mental health issues. Due to Simmons sitting out until he was traded on February 10, 2022, Simmons accumulated around $20 million in fines from the Sixers.
Even though the Sixers traded Simmons, he has yet to suit up for the Nets, and reports are that he will not take the floor on Thursday versus the Sixers.
Issues Surrounding Simmons’s Grievance
The Sixers have never questioned the legitimacy of Simmons’s mental health claims. The issue is that Simmons refused to visit the team doctors regarding his mental health. Reports have stated that Simmons visited professionals through the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). However, the Sixers have not received any information regarding his mental health nor a plan to get Simmons back on the court.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the NBPA requires each player and team to sign the uniform player contract attached as Exhibit A to the CBA. Section 5(c) of the contract states:
For any violation of Team rules, any breach of any provision of this Contract, or for any conduct impairing the faithful and thorough discharge of the duties incumbent upon the Player, the Team may reasonably impose fines and/or suspensions on the Player in accordance with the terms of the CBA.
Therefore, if Simmons were to breach his contract with the Sixers, the team may reasonably impose fines.
Section 7 covers the Physical Condition of the player, including the following provisions under subsections e and h:
(e) Should the Player suffer an injury, illness, or medical condition, he will submit himself to a medical examination, appropriate medical treatment by a physician designated by the Team, and such rehabilitation activities as such physician may specify.
(h) A player who consults or is treated by a physician (including a psychiatrist) . . . shall give notice of such consultation or treatment to the Team and shall provide the Team with all information it may request concerning any condition that in the judgment of the Team’s physician may affect the Player’s ability to play skilled basketball.
Due to Simmons failing to see a team-designated physician and failing to provide the team with information from any visitations to outside physicians, the Sixers take the position that Simmons breached the contract, and the Sixers may impose fines. In this case, the Sixers fined Simmons $360,000 for each missed game.
Without knowing the exact basis of Simmons’s claim, there could be another issue with the timing of Simmons’s grievance. Per Article XXXI, Section 2(a), Simmons must initiate a grievance within thirty (30) days from the date of the occurrence upon which the grievance is based. If the basis of the grievance is the Sixers fining Simmons for sitting out, the Sixers could argue that Simmons’s claims are time-barred due to the initial occurrence being at the beginning of the season.
For Simmons and his representatives, there could be value in taking a shot and trying to claw back some of the money. Even so, due to the contract between Simmons and the Sixers, it appears that Simmons has an uphill battle ahead.
Originally Published on offthecourtdocket.com