NBA AM: Decertification May Be Only Option
The deadline is ticking. The 2012 season is on the line. Are there chinks in the National Basketball Players Association’s (NBPA) armor? Is decertifying the union the only option for players to counter the hard-line owners who are intent on dramatically shifting the balance of league revenues to their side?
After another marathon negotiating session on Saturday under the direction of federal mediator George Cohen, NBA commission David Stern issued a firm deadline for the players union to accept the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) offer.
According to Stern, the players association has until the end of business on Wednesday to accept the league’s latest proposal, which they state would pay players up to 51 percent of the annual basketball related income (BRI) … or else face the consequences.
If the NBPA doesn’t accept the proposed labor deal from ownership Stern says the next offer will max players BRI split at 47 percent, feature a more restrictive (hard) salary cap and contain contract rollbacks, which the owners previously submitted before the lockout began in July.
Jeffrey Kessler, attorney for the players union, called the offer a “fraud” and believed it would top out at 50.2 percent.
Under the expired CBA the players’ BRI split was 57 percent.
The NBPA executive committee has remained united in their public stance that the owners’ recent offer is “unacceptable,” and one which the board remains hesitant to present to the league’s players for an official vote.
However, the union has softened its position on a 52-48 revenue split and reportedly is willing to entertain a 51-49 distribution provided sign-and-trade deals and full midlevel exceptions for luxury-tax paying teams are part of any new CBA reached.
With the deadline looming, player representatives from each franchise are expected to descend upon New York in a mandatory meeting on Tuesday to discuss the next steps in the ongoing labor dispute.
The expected next step in the process would likely mean decertifying the union and battling owners in federal court. However the early consensus seems to indicate that the decertification route isn’t a unanimous view amongst the players.
Veteran shooting guard Anthony Parker, who serves as the player representative for the Cleveland Cavaliers, told ESPN he is leaning heavily toward rejecting the league’s current offer but supports the decertification alternative.
“Most of the people I’m talking with don’t like the deal,” Parker said. “We don’t think it’s a good deal for the players. Being for decertification does not mean you want the season to be cancelled. Even if we decertify there will still be plenty of time to get a deal done and that’s our hope.”
The entire slate of November games were cancelled by the league last month which has cost the players an estimated $350 million in salaries which will never be recouped.
As expected, losing money has caused some discomfort from the league’s rank and file constituents with some of those players hitting social media sites urging the NBPA to accept the owners’ 50-50 offer.
While the players association may be having trouble staying united on all fronts, there are widespread reports that the owners may be facing similar battles from within.
Yahoo! Sports, citing sources close to the situation, reported that hard-line owners didn’t want to give the players association until Wednesday to accept or reject the league’s latest offer – but instead wanted to enforce a 24-hour window for the players to choose.
“There’s an intense feeling among the teams who are not on the labor committee as to how a 50-50 deal doesn’t fix the economic model,” the ownership source said. “They’re adamant that 50-50 is too high and that the labor committee should’ve never gone that high. Stern wouldn’t be able to overcome such strong and wide resistance however much he tries to lead here.”
One general manager, speaking anonymously, told the New York Times decertification would effectively kill the season. But the GM also questioned the viability of having a 2011-12 season in any capacity based on how talks are trending and the players’ unexpected resolve.
“I don’t think we’ll have one,” the anonymous GM said to the New York Times. “I think the players are strong and I don’t think they’ll be intimidated.”
A group of powerful player agents which include Arn Tellem, Jeff Schwartz, Henry Thomas, Mark Bartelstein, Bill Duffy, Leon Rose, and Dan Fegan are continuing to work the decertification angle.
To dissolve the union at least 30 percent of the league’s players – roughly 130 or so – must sign the petition.
The players must then wait at least 45 days before bringing the issue to the NBPA’s 450 members for a vote.
If the measure reaches this stage only a majority vote would be needed to decertify.
Stern has publicly maintained the latest offer from the league is as good as it’s going to get and continues to urge the players to accept it.
“Time is of the essence with respect to a meeting that is scheduled,” Stern told ESPN during an interview. “We think there is a great offer on the table, and what we told the players is it’s getting late and the only rational thing to do is for us to make that deal because given what’s going on in our business and our industry, it’ll get worse from there.”
“We told the players — and we actually sent [a letter] to the union and we’ll send it to the player reps to make sure they have it — that an offer of 47 percent will become operative with a hard cap in effect,” Stern said reinforcing the owners’ seriousness and planned direction if the latest proposal is rejected by the players. “[The owners] are unified in their willingness to make this deal through [Wednesday deadline] and then they will be unified in their willingness to negotiate only over the 47-percent proposal that goes onto the table at the close of business [Wednesday].”
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