Labor Talks: Time To Make A Move

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a hard time keeping up. Most of us are in the same spot, trying to figure out who is for what as the clock ticks down to the league’s 5 p.m. ET Wednesday deadline for the players to either take or dismiss the league’s 50-50 proposal.

Some players are all for making a deal, as Kobe Bryant told Yahoo! Sports:

“We need for the two sides to get together again before Wednesday, because we’re too close to getting a deal done,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “We need to iron out the last system items and save this from spiraling into a nuclear winter.”

Some others are not. Some of the owners are for it and apparently, per ESPN.com‘s sources, some others are not. It’s high time someone made a move, the right move to get the 2011-12 season up and running.

But when the sides can’t come to a consensus within their own caucuses, it’s tough to see some sort of breakthrough if and when the sides come together again to try and hash out the final details of a new collective bargaining agreement.

With the union representatives from all 30 teams set to meet today in New York, in advance of Wednesday’s end-of-business deadline, plenty of observers are a little nervous about what type of movement could emerge from the gathering. The players have limited options at this point. They can take a vote on the proposal and decide to take the deal, bowing to the league’s “ultimatum,” as union president Derek Fisher called it over the weekend, and breathe life into a season and the NBA fan base. Or they can refuse to even consider it, as Fisher insisted in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s bargaining session, and push this affair into an even darker corner.

Fair or not, the players will own the next 36 hours of this mess.

They’ve allowed themselves to be boxed into a position where they get to wear the villains tag no matter what they do, as an agent explained it to us late Monday night. “They can’t win either way,” he said. “And it’s not really their fault. They’re stuck, though. You either suck it up and take the best deal you can get or try and stand strong and end up costing yourself even more in the long run.”

It’s time for them to make a move, one way or another … of course, it’s never as simple as that:

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Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Some hardline owners didn’t want to even give the players until Wednesday to make a decision on accepting or rejecting Saturday’s offer, sources said. They wanted to force a decision within 24 hours, but were talked out of it. “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. NBA Commissioner [David] Stern wouldn’t be able to overcome such strong and wide resistance however much he tries to lead here.” … Lakers guard Steve Blake has been canvassing peers throughout the league over the past 48 hours, pushing them to contact team player representatives to push the Players Association to let its 450-plus membership vote on the owner’s ultimatum offer, sources said. Blake hasn’t been pushing players to vote “yes” or “no” on the deal but has gained a groundswell of support with players throughout the league. Nevertheless, Blake is a proponent of accepting the league’s current offer, sources said. The agents and players pushing for decertification of the Players Association believe they’re on the way to getting 50 percent of the league’s players to sign a petition this week, sources told Yahoo! Sports. “We want a show of force with the percentage who sign the petition,” one agent told Yahoo! Sports. Sources within seven of the most prominent agencies – including the agents and players themselves – said they have overwhelming support to march toward dissolving the union. The agents are selling decertification to the players as a leverage tool to get a deal done to salvage the season, as much as a long-term threat to take the owners to federal court with an antitrust lawsuit. Agents working on the decertification include Mark Bartelstein, Arn Tellem, Jeff Schwartz, Bill Duffy, Leon Rose, Henry Thomas and Dan Fegan. Another agent outside of those said his firm, which includes a dozen clients, is “100 percent on board” with voting for decertification.

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Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: As union officials huddled Monday to consider their options in the face of an ultimatum to accept the owners’ latest proposal, one such option could be a shift in legal strategy with plenty of risk and reward attached to it. Rather than waiting for the players to get the necessary signatures to dissolve the union by seeking a time-consuming decertification vote, Billy Hunter could advise commissioner David Stern that, if no further negotiations occur before the Wednesday deadline to accept the owners’ deal, he will have no choice but to step aside as executive director of the union. The legal term for this would be a disclaimer of interest, which would only require a letter from Hunter to Stern advising him that the National Basketball Players Association no longer exists as the bargaining unit for the players. The advantage of this for the players would be that, once the letter is sent, their attorneys would not have to wait 45-60 days for the National Labor Relations Board to authorize an election to formally dissolve the union. With a disclaimer of interest, the players could almost immediately commence an anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA, said Gabe Feldman, director of the Sports Law Center at Tulane University. “The owners have threatened to, in some ways, end the negotiations if (the players) don’t agree by Wednesday, because 47 percent is a non-starter — we all know that,” Feldman said. “So the owners have given the players an ultimatum with an artificial deadline, and it may force the players to respond with their own ultimatum. But both are destructive of the negotiation process. “Clearly, what David Stern has said is designed to push the players to make a concession with the threat of essentially ending the negotiations,” Feldman said. “And that’s what the players would be doing by threatening to dissolve the union.” A parallel threat to dissolve the union through a decertification vote already is under way, with players and agents dissatisfied with the union’s representation consulting with anti-trust attorneys to weigh the costs and benefits of decertifying. But while a decertification initiated by union members has a better chance of holding up in court as not being a “sham,” the disclaimer of interest route is more expeditious and could apply the leverage players are seeking without endangering the entire 2011-12 season.

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Sam Amick of SI.com: With NBA commissioner David Stern threatening to erase months of negotiating progress by Wednesday if players refuse to accept the deal that is currently on the table, Kevin Martin — an eight-year veteran who is owed $24 million over the next two seasons — believes it’s time for players to accept the proposal and get back to work. “If you know for sure [the owners] are not moving, then you take the best deal possible,” Martin wrote in a text message to SI.com. “We are risking losing 20 to 25 percent of missed games that we’ll never get back, all over 2 percent [of basketball-related income] over an eight- to 10-year period [of the eventual collective bargaining agreement]. And let’s be honest: 60 to 70 percent of players won’t even be in the league when the next CBA comes around.” Martin’s profile is a fascinating one in the current context. His agent is Dan Fegan, a man who is widely known to be among the group of seven agents who have spent recent months pushing for decertification of the union. Martin is also a member of Michael Jordan‘s team of players on the Jordan Brand, a group that also includes the likes of Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Ray Allen. Jordan, who once famously told Washington owner Abe Pollin during the 1998-99 lockout that “if you can’t make it work economically, you should sell the team” during his playing days, was painted as the hardest of hard-line owners in a New York Times report last week, and numerous players were quick to criticize his perceived hypocrisy. But while Martin did not discuss Jordan, he clearly sees the risk of decertifying or refusing the proposal as greater than any possible reward. “When players are negotiating as free agents, we’re always saying, ‘Well I’m going to do what’s best for my family,’” he wrote. “So now we’re lying, because right now, losing money isn’t helping our families at all. I’m not criticizing the fight our union is doing, because they have been in every meeting adding up to countless hours and have been breaking down every number possible. I believe in them and know they have the best interest for us. My opinion — which is just one of 450 players — is that if it comes down to losing a season and 100 percent of the money, we all definitely have to sit down and think about reality. That doesn’t sound smart to possibly become part of the country’s growing unemployment rate.”

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Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine: A group of disgruntled NBA owners held a conference call Monday to express their displeasure with the 50/50 revenue offer commissioner David Stern has presented to the players’ association, according to sources with knowledge of the call. The deal, which the union sees as an “ultimatum” offer, calls for players to receive anywhere between 49 and 51 percent of basketball-related income, but the group of displeased owners, the sources said, are hoping the players reject it. Stern has issued a Wednesday afternoon deadline for the deal, which players argue would make it nearly impossible for them to get anywhere above 50.2 percent of revenue. If the players do not accept this deal, Stern said the next one will call for a 53-47 split in the owners’ favor, along with essentially a hard salary cap. Sources have told ESPN.com that the union’s executive committee is scheduled to meet with the 30 player representatives in New York on Tuesday and a source said earlier that the union appears split on the deal. The executive committee, the source said, is staunchly against voting to approve the deal, while the player reps may also be divided. However, a source said later Monday that the owners on the call fear that the player reps will push to approve the deal with the clock ticking. Stern was not on Monday’s call, but the sources said that up to 11 owners took part, including Charlotte’s Michael Jordan, Portland’s Paul Allen and Milwaukee’s Herb Kohl. “There are at least 15 owners who are praying that the players say no,” one source said, “because then they’ll get the deal they want.” … One source said if the players accept the 50/50 offer, it will not be easy for Stern to get it approved by his owners. “There are a large number of owners against (the 50/50 deal), but I think we have enough to get it passed,” the source said.

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Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic: NBA Commissioner David Stern said if the deal isn’t accepted by Wednesday, players will be stuck with an offer no better than 47 percent and one that features a more-restrictive flex cap. “We hope that this juxtaposition will cause the union to assess its position and accept the deal,” Stern told reporters Sunday. Wow. That’s not an ultimatum, it’s a threat. Stern is saying, “Take this offer or we’ll really stick it to you.” Nah nah nah nah nah. The more Stern speaks, the more I find myself siding with players. He has just transformed himself from one of the sports world’s more-innovative commissioners to one of its bigger bullies. He already has fined three owners for commenting about the lockout for what is believed to be a total of $700,000. One of those fines went to Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, whose recent tweets suggested division among ownership. (He has since removed them and said they were misconstrued. Yeah, right.) If 22 teams really are losing money like the NBA says they are, show us the books to prove it. And by the way, owners, stop dishing out ill-advised contracts you can’t afford. It sure feels like players have conceded a lot. Shorter contracts. Reduced raises. Greater restrictions on player movement. Keep in mind the players were guaranteed 57 percent in the last collective-bargaining agreement. Negotiations work when parties meet in the middle. Owners haven’t arrived at the middle yet, which is why so many players are up in arms, with some considering decertifying the union.

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Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman: Thunder center Nazr Mohammed has been one of the league’s most outspoken players during the lockout. He’s frequently shared his thoughts on the NBA’s labor dispute via the social networking website Twitter. On Monday, Mohammed weighed in with more of his thoughts on the dispute. “It’s crazy that most fans think that the players are on strike and that we’re asking for more money. It’s the complete opposite!” Mohammed wrote. “We’ve expected that we have to accept less money to ensure that our owners can have the opportunity to compete and make a profit. We’ve given back more than $1 (billion) over the life of a (collective bargaining agreement) in our proposals. We’re asking for a system that allows movement and competitiveness for our services. And to grow with the popularity of our league. But (their) proposals want a restrictive system & unacceptable givebacks. “I’m pretty sure if they actually concede to something REAL that we can get a deal done. We’ve tried to meet them (three-fourths) of the way. “In business, (you) never suppose to make it personal or make an emotional decision but I think it’s going that way. Pride from both sides is gonna cost us a season, 100′s of millions of (dollars), and our fan base. At least I can say that our union is trying to negotiate in good faith, but I hope their/our pride aren’t making the decisions here. Cooler heads need to prevail quickly. But what can (you) do when (you) feel like (you’re) backed against a wall? There’s 3 options…take the deal, counter offer (probably won’t work), or decertify the union and put it in the hands of the courts.” A reporter then asked Mohammed which option he’s in favor of. “I’m still trying to figure it out,” Mohammed responded. “Should know more (tomorrow). (Because) this CBA won’t really affect me, I feel it’s my duty to support our union and do what’s best for the young guys who will be (free agents) in the near future. As I receive more official info, then I can make my decision.”

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Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Judging comments from players — ones who’ve yet to play a minute of NBA ball to seasoned veterans — it’s evident they want to do what they theoretically get paid to do. Even if it means settling for what’s on the table now. “There’s millions of dollars here and everybody doesn’t get that,” Jazz forward Jeremy Evans said. “So I’m just like, (let’s) take whatever is given and let’s play.” Evans, a dunk machine Monday, was among the players who sounded like they’d vote to end the lockout this week if the National Basketball Players Association handed out ballots. “We’ve got people out here struggling and doing things, and not living the best life,” Evans added. “I just think it’s silly that we’re fighting over so much money.” Jazz center Al Jefferson smiled and hinted he might get in trouble if he were to go off on his thoughts about the whole sticky labor situation. “I want to play ball,” Jefferson said. Big Al, who hadn’t played in Utah since April before Monday’s game, followed that statement up with an important addition. “But,” Jefferson added, “I want to play under a fair deal. That’s all that matters.” While everybody involved in this exhibition smiled, sweated and scored, there is an ominous cloud looming over the NBA. One player representative from all 30 teams will meet with union officials today in New York City to discuss the possibility of decertification — a move that could eventually give the players leverage. Or it could backfire and result in the cancelation of the entire 2011-12 season. Raja Bell‘s agent confirmed that the guard and team representative will be at the meetings on behalf of the Jazz. Player reps have their work cut out for them, even if the group decides to seek enough votes to proceed with the decertification process. Some players aren’t paying attention or don’t even know if they want to go down that road. “I have no opinion on decertification right now,” veteran Earl Watson said, adding that he’s heard too many rumors about the entire labor situation. … Players realize they have to be cognizant of the long-term ramifications of what signing an unfavorable or favorable collective bargaining agreement will have. That’s why Jefferson, who attended a couple of the players’ meetings this summer, said he insists on a fair deal “that’s not just for me but the guys that’s in high school now. Just a fair deal for the guys here and the upcoming guys.”

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Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: My gut feeling: We will have a settlement of the NBA lockout within 36 hours. Why? Because, folks, they are 99 percent of the way there. (You don’t pile all of the kids into the station wagon, tell them you are driving to DisneyWorld and then stop in the outskirts of Orlando and say you are turning around.) The owners are at 50 percent on the revenue split. The players are at 51 — or ” fifty plus one” as they put it when talks broke off Saturday night, with that extra 1 percent representing $40 million that would be earmarked for improved pensions for both current and retired players. If David Stern throws them some crumbs — say $20 million for improved benefits, plus a few tweaks to the system changes that players find so objectionable — they are 99.9 percent of the way there. I said all this on the radio yesterday, and I feel as strongly about it today as I did then. Player reps from the 30 NBA teams have a 1 p.m. EST meeting scheduled today in Manhattan, and the smart money says they’ll emerge asking for one more meeting with the owners to try to move to a place just a little more palatable. Stern has nothing to lose by taking the meeting, everything to gain by taking it and sprinkling a few crumbs toward the players. And if the players emerge from a bargaining sessions saying they are now prepared to put the offer up for a vote, voila! The season will start in the second week of December. Yes, it’s that easy. There was always going to be an endgame in this fight, and it has arrived. There was always a secret watch in Stern’s pocket that showed when the true 11th hour would arrive, and it is here. As I said during that radio interview in Detroit: Are the players really going to walk away from $2 billion in guaranteed money of the upcoming season? Hell, no. If they let that money fly out the window, it will be gone forever. The owners have been ruthless, hardheaded, stubborn and disciplined in this negotiation, and they won it a long time ago. But they still have to get it to the finish line, and that is why there is still has to be a little extra give left in their arsenal after keeping it in reserve for more than four months.

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19 Comments

  1. DeMaris says:

    I, for one, am not for the owners giving in to this deal or anything close to it. I have never heard of anyone sharing revenue of their bosses unless they are shareholders of a public company. It is unheard of. they should have the same amount deducted when the owners go through year after year of losses. I for one would like to show these guys who is really important here; should there be a season as most think there will, PLEASE do not turn on your TV and do not go to your local arenas to watch them play. IF YOU AGREE, BOYCOTT THE SEASON!!! PLEASE.

  2. Jay says:

    I just don’t understand why the teams losing money carry so much weight i these negotiations. In any other business, they would fold or sell or hire better execs. If you look at the teams making money, you’ll find nothing in common. And the teams losing money, you will find nothing in common. Other than, some people know how to manage a basket-ball team and others don’t.

    I don’t get why the players have to give up so much more than the owners to compensate the poorly managed teams. In areas where the owners have said “We’ve compromised.” It’s still a better deal than what they’ve had in the last CBA. Do the players not get anything? When are the owners going to give a little? What am I missing? I can’t believe how many people are one sided right now for the owners. As a sports gambler, I’d love to see the season start, but the owners are making crap offers imo based on what I’ve been watching since the lockout began.

  3. don cooper says:

    if these things continue what will happen to the up coming stars who dedicade there life to make the nba if you was in the players position what would you do? its only fair think of it as this your still making money either way the players just want it 50/50 and look at how much they care about there fans you have carmelo who tells his fan in baltimore the things he will do and go and do it if you stop things like this you will screw a lot of dream and future i am a young star im 12 and im planning to come there and be in the nba i hope im able to go with out any lockouts over 2% and some of these guys are right these so called superstars are petty they need to step up and help D.Fisher you cant win if theres not enough support if u want change then change what your doin and support him thank you …………

  4. don cooper says:

    i think the nba needs to take the players deal because with out the players theres no nba no fastbreaks or dunks and arent u loosing more money by holdin out

  5. hector says:

    wake me up when the ref blows the whistle for the jump

  6. Landbarron says:

    Has it ever occurred to the current players that, based on economics at the time..57% was a number they received but should have NEVER been agreed to last time? The current crop have earned millions more than elder statesmen and to fight for a continued increase in their paychecks is crazy when the debt bubble has burst! To argue that they’ve come down so much is a mute point when that number contributes to the overall loss to the owners. If they get 57% of the revenues…wouldn’t it then make sense to share in 43% of the losses??
    I am a huge hoops fan…hard to find a bigger one but without a profit, there is no business! If these players are actually at risk with a few missed paychecks, as big as they are….that’s proof alone that they know nothing about money management!

  7. Lee says:

    Take the deal players, it will be worst after this if no deal is done..

  8. Carmelo says:

    It’s time for the players to take the offer that is on the table.

  9. Anthony says:

    NBA play take the deal 50/50 is better then 47
    Nba player are lose fan faster
    perple are giving up on u

    • Bryce Ricks says:

      The 50/50 was the best decission that the NBA could make because there was no better way to solve the problem. Anyway there were probably other ways to solve the problem but I believe the 50/50 would work out the best because that way the owners and managers don’t have to worry much about the problems with money issues. The NBA players would still be making lots of money even with the 50/50 decission. And I,m a big fan of the NBA I like watching it on T.V. so please agree!

  10. Troy says:

    I understand the pride thing going on with the players, and if it truly is a matter of principle to them, I can respect that to a certain degree. But seriously, what do they think is going to be the best case scenario for them at this stage? There is absolutely no way they’ll ever get the owners up to 52 or 53%, so are they really willing to lose a whole season’s worth of games and paychecks, just to eventually be forced to swallow their pride and take a worse deal anyway? They’ll make FAR less money playing overseas, and only the stud players will be getting those offers anyway. Any idea of the players starting their own league seems stupid to me. The NBA is so rich with tradition and history, it just wouldn’t be the same, and it would take soooooooooo much money and time to get something like that going.

    I understand this deal is a downgrade to the current CBA, but clearly that deal was ridiculously lopsided towards the players. Anyone demanding fully guaranteed long term contracts for players who get injured or have declining skills (especially in THIS economy), should be ashamed of themselves. Makes me sick to think of how much money Eddy Curry has made in his garbage career, sitting on his couch eating Cheetos. I would rather not watch NBA anymore than see bums like that make more money than active players, not to mention making 1,000x that of the average WORKING citizen. Surely there is an NFL type compromise to be made, with certain portions of each contract guaranteed, and with incentives included to take care of the guys really earning the dough.

  11. MaFox says:

    i hope chris sheridan is right

  12. Disaster will strike if the players do not accept the owners ultimatum today. Although unfair to the players, (in my opinion), I say just take it and save this season. Good luck!

  13. tim says:

    what is kobe taliking about you can tell he really has no clue what is going on its players like him that deserve the worst deal possible instead of fisher being the president of this whole labour issue it should be kobe or lebron or durrant or dwyane wade or dwight howard or carmello anthony they call themseleves the superstars and claim there the face of the leauge right well be the best when it counts and invest more time learning the buisness side of the nba and not just basketball stop playing summer league ball and partying and complaining about the job Fisher is doing and about how the owners are being unfair and get involed be there to back fisher up the superstars would command greater respect if they were present with him and actually know what is going on they these players have no right to complain about anything if there not doing all they can to help fisher

  14. Athanasia Denise Columbus says:

    I have been a loyal fan of the nba for a long time. I want to tell the players do not trust their agents because agents are greedy, they want your money checkout the CBA deal your self Kobe can you talk to Derek Fisher about a 50/50 split i feel he is a major problem that is holding up the agreement Please I love BBall I WANT A SEASON!

  15. Jako says:

    Too many rookies and mid level players out there that need this season to happen in order to keep up their mortgages and car payments. The union better wise up. Only players that want decertification and the lose of the season are the veterans who’ve managed to salt away some cash. The rest need the paychecks. Sorry Fisher, you’d better get it done or get out of the way.

  16. Robert says:

    The “Game” has changed. The NBA needs a new “strategy” to take advantage of the global market the NBA enjoys via the internet. The NBA is watched around the world and the owners and players need to create a “strategy” to take advantage of this opportunity. For example the model currently being discussed (Revenue split, System rules and Revenue-sharing) should be expanded to explore what opportunities exist for teams to exploit and for players to share in increasing the NBA revenue pools. It is time for the NBA to consider taking the “Game” global and expand into Europe, Germany and China. You would think a bunch of billionaires and millionaires would reach out globally and expand their product which is very successful in the global market place. The new NBA would have 2 divisions, NBA-USA and NBA-Global competing for the world championship. It is estimated that NBA-Global/China would generate revenue in the 10 billion dollar range alone. What is the NBA waiting for?

    • Robert says:

      Michael Jordan, Charlotte BobCats owner should be in the front of this global strategy as the “face” of the NBA recognized around the world. Only Ali is more famous globally than MJ.

    • Fraser says:

      I agree with you Robert. But I do think that the NBA Global league would suffer from reduced attendance figures and be a poorer draw for the worlds best players. Especially if they weren’t playing the NBA America teams all season until the playoff final. Would you rather have the Celtics, Bulls or Lakers come to town or some new team from Moscow/Berlin/Barcelona?