NBPA Stresses Unity After Las Vegas Meeting
On Thursday afternoon, the National Basketball Players Association held a regional meeting in Las Vegas that lasted over three hours. After the NBA’s labor talks stalled on Tuesday, the union wanted to meet with the players and explain what happened behind closed doors.
Derek Fisher, the president of the NBPA, sent out a letter to his fellow players earlier in the day, but the face to face meeting allowed the NBPA to address concerns and stifle misinformation. As the NBA’s owners congregated in Dallas for their Board of Governors meeting, roughly 35 players attended today’s meeting to hear what Billy Hunter and the executive committee had to say.
“We had a very colorful and engaging meeting today,” Fisher said. “We covered several important topics with the issues we’re facing and dealing with right now. At the end of the day, we come out of our meeting continuing to be as unified and together as we’ve been throughout this entire process. We’ve continued to express our desire to negotiate and work to get a fair deal, one that is fair to all of our players. Not just our star players, but our players that are considered to be less than stars, rookies, mid-level and minimum salaries – every player on every NBA team. That’s who we’re standing for and we’ll continue to take that stand until our team owners are in a position to come to the table and get a fair deal done.”
“Our players had the opportunity today to see our proposals and the information that we’re digesting and taking into consideration,” Hunter added. “They come out standing in the same place as when they went in. They’re here with us, supporting us, and all of our guys are in this together.”
All of the players in attendance surrounded Fisher and Hunter at the podium as they spoke to the press, in an effort to display their solidarity. The group donned shirts that read “STAND” in capital letters across the front. The union wanted to make it very clear that the group is still united, especially since reports suggesting otherwise have surfaced this week.
Despite five hours of negotiating on Tuesday, the two sides weren’t able to make any significant progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement. The players and owners exchanged ideas, but spent the majority of the session meeting separately amongst themselves. As the negotiations continue, Fisher stressed that the players will not agree to a deal if it includes a hard cap and certain contract limitations.
“We’ve been clear about a few main points that are, in a sense, non-negotiable,” Fisher said. “We’re not going to sign a deal if it includes those things. If it includes a hard salary cap, if it includes a limitation on exceptions and guaranteed contracts, those are things that we cannot and will not sign off on. It doesn’t mean we won’t negotiate, but those particular points will always be on the table for us.”
At this point, neither side has been able to identify a compromise when it comes to the solving the hard cap issue.
“We haven’t found a middle ground in that regard,” Fisher said. “I think the league still feels that the flex cap, which is still a hard cap, presents some ways to get around the idea of there being a hard cap. We just don’t agree with their position. “
When asked if it’s the principle of a hard cap or the value at which the cap is set that the players are against, Fisher paused before answering. He said that if the salary cap were to be set at $100 million, then “that’s a very different discussion.” However, he quickly backpedaled and reiterated that the players want nothing to do with a hard cap.
“A hard cap itself, regardless of its level of compensation, presents an issue for any team,” Fisher said. “It happens in football and it will happen in our sport if we were to agree to any deal with a hard cap of any level in it. You cannot guarantee contracts on a consistent basis if you have a hard salary cap. It’s just not possible. That is what makes professional basketball different from professional football, that ability to lock in and have security because of how important an individual piece is on a basketball team compared to one piece on a football team. We just feel there are some differences.”
One topic that has been picking up steam recently is the possibility of decertification. Reports have suggested that some high-profile agents are looking to dissolve the union, but Hunter made it clear that no decisions have been made and nothing is currently in the works.
“We did not talk about decertification in terms of it as a strategy,” Hunter said. “Whenever we meet, we discuss all of the options with the players and there’s a full disclosure within our group. We make every effort to have the players understand what it is that we’re trying to achieve and the various routes or ways that we may take to get there. As it relates to whether or not we’re prepared to decertify today or tomorrow or whether that decision has been made, no. We have all of our options on the table and we’ll review and assess each of those options as time goes on.”
DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFLPA, was a guest speaker at today’s meeting, in large part because of his experience with decertification.
“We had DeMaurice Smith appear today,” Hunter said. “DeMaurice came and sort of gave the players some background on what it was like with his players going through the lockout. The one point that he made was that, even with regard to decertification, it’s not the silver bullet, that the real key to everything is really player solidarity. I think that’s what Derek has underscored here. The players are united, they’re with us, and they understand the position we’ve adopted and stayed with to date. We’ve kept them fully informed and we intend to continue keeping them fully informed and engaged. Any decisions that are made in the future will be made by the group of players that are standing behind us, as well as their colleagues.”
While the players and owners don’t have any future meetings scheduled at the moment, these regional meetings are an important part of the process because they ensure that everyone is on the same page and prepared to advance talks when the time comes.