NBA AM: Labor Talks Enter Do Or Die Stage
So it seemingly all comes down to this.
Three months of daily posturing in the media all comes down to how much ground can be made in todays talks between the players union and league owners.
Training camps and a large portion of preseason games have already been scrapped due to the lack of progress made from both sides during this labor dispute, with regular season game cancellations fully expected to be the next casualty of the ongoing lockout.
From the players’ perspective, we’ve heard all summer long from union chief Billy Hunter and NBPA president Derek Fisher about the importance of maintaining a unified stance in preparation for a long battle to secure a fairly equitable new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
From the owners’ stance, we’ve heard NBA commissioner David Stern constantly counter that the league’s current economic model is broken and the dire need to incorporate a system which makes year end profits more attainable for small market and struggling franchises.
No matter which side you’ve positioned yourself on in this dispute if you look at the situation objectively both sides do indeed have their respective points and now the rubber must meet the proverbial road.
The posturing stage is now over, the stakes have never been higher and significant progress must be made today – without question.
“Each side understands exactly what’s at stake and where potentially there is movement in order to try to get a deal done,’’ NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. “I mean, we can only say we’re running out of time so many times. We both understand that if we don’t make our best offers in the next few days, we’re going to be at the point where we’re going to be causing damage to the game, to ourselves, and they’re going to be out paychecks.”
The last sentence from Silver must be noted – “they’re going to be out paychecks.”
It is a widely known fact that a majority of players in the league despite their enormous earnings live paycheck to paycheck. Make no mistake; the owners have been banking on using this card to their advantage ever since they imposed the lockout on July 1. The owners have undoubtedly been banking on the loss of cold hard cash to soften the resolve the players union have been touting.
“We know that our backs are against the wall in terms of regular-season games and what those consequences will be,’’ Fisher said. “But we still have to be respectful to the process, not rush through this, realizing that there are a great deal of ramifications for years to come. So we have to be responsible in that regard.’’
The owners want a harder salary cap and want to cut into the players’ Basketball Related Income (BRI) guarantee which is currently 57 percent.
The players to their credit aren’t asking for more in a new CBA and in fact their previous proposals to ownership have actually included numerous concessions.
Bu the owners’ resolve has been just as hard line with no signs of a chink in their negotiating armor.
The owners want shorter player contracts and significant salary reductions in those deals to go along with the BRI adjustment, despite riding the wave of another year of record setting revenues for the league.
“We still are in the same position that we all wish we were starting training camp today and we know a lot of our fans in respective markets feel the same way,’’ Fisher added yesterday. “So we’re going to continue to work at this until we can either figure it out in a way that will spare us all a lot of collateral damage and games missed, or not, but we’re going to put the effort and the time in as we have been doing and see if we can come to a resolution.’’
Agents Draw Their Line In The Sand: A group of six of the most powerful agencies which represent players issued a letter (obtained by Sports Illustrated) yesterday to their clients apparently concerned the NBA players union is giving up too much ground in labor talks.
The basic premise of the document was meant to strongly encourage players not to agree to any deal presented to them which doesn’t guarantee a 57 percent BRI or which includes any wholesale changes from the CBA which expired on June 30.
Let’s be clear, the agents have a clear motive.
For the most part agencies are compensated by earning a commission on player salaries.
The less money a player makes in salary, the less an agent will make long term off that player. The less a player makes in salary, the more likely they’ll be looking to cut administrative overhead which could ultimately lead to the downward shift of commissions demanded by agents for representation.
The agents appear willing and ready to thrust themselves into the ongoing labor dispute on behalf of their clients.
According to a Yahoo! Sports report a well respected agent added the following: “Stern doesn’t want to deal with us; he wants Billy and his lawyers in there. Maybe if Stern’s faced with revealing financial records, legal costs and paying possibly billions in damages, maybe he’ll have more incentive to make a deal than sitting across the room from Hunter, eat turkey sandwiches and taking a percentage point at a time away from the players.”
Here are the points made in the agents letter to players, which can be read fully here
- Urged the players to not ratify any deal which allowed for the reduction in maximum salaries, contract length pr which contain changes in free agency
- Refuse Any Deal that Excludes the Players from the Explosive Growth of the NBA
- Demand to see the complete financial records of the owners over the past six seasons, including their related entities (such as regional sports networks and arenas)
- No further reduction of the percentage of BRI received by players
- Demand a full vote by all players on any proposed deal between the players and owner
- Remember, it is not about when or how fast a deal is reached, it is about taking the time to secure the best deal
The letter was jointly composed by was jointly composed by Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group; Bill Duffy of BDA Sports; Dan Fegan of Lagardere Unlimited; Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management; Leon Rose and Henry Thomas of Creative Artists Agency; and Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports and Entertainment.
Fisher Issues Response To Agents: It didn’t take long for NBPA president Derek Fisher to issue a response to the agents’ position.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the document late Monday night and it can be read in full detail using this link.
Here are the main points from Fisher’s rebuttal:
- The letter however includes misinformation and unsupported theories.
- As a player myself, I know that each player should read everything we can. My emails, media reports, letters from their representation, to form an opinion on the situation. Educate yourself, ask questions, do it all. But not all of what you read is fact, you know this, I know this.
- One issue I need to again be very clear on…nothing can be accepted without a vote by the players. If and when there is a proposal that we feel is in the best interests of us as players, each of you WILL have the opportunity to vote in person. It’s in the union bylaws, it’s not up for negotiation. You will have the opportunity to see the full proposal before you agree, you will be able to challenge it, question it, anything you feel appropriate in order to know that this is the best deal for you and your fellow players.
- We go into tomorrow’s meeting strong, remaining steadfast on the issues we will not be able to move away from. Anyone saying different is not privy to the meetings and is uninformed.
The agent group has strongly been suggesting the decertification of the players union in the wake of the owners’ hard line stance.
For added background, it’s also important to remember Fisher criticized the same group of agents in September for bringing up the topic of decertification and also questioned “their motives” for pushing for such a step.
Also, while Fisher maintains each player will have the opportunity to vote, that doesn’t specifically mean each player will actually get a chance to vote.
Rewind back to the 1999 lockout.
According to ESPN’s Ric Bucher: When the union and owners struck a deal to end the lockout that delayed the start of the league’s 1998-99 season, players were given barely more than 24 hours to review the owners’ proposal and find their way to New York, where they had to be present to have their vote count in a show-of-hands format rather than by secret ballot, sources say. A total of 184 votes were recorded — the deal was ratified 179-5 — but that represented less than half the players eligible to vote.
Continue to check HOOPSWORLD throughout the day for news on any developments
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