THE BEAUTY AND CURSE THAT IS TWITTER
— 4:53 p.m.: If you’re like most of us, one minute you love Twitter. And the next … well, you know what’s on the other side of that line.
As huge a role as the social networks have played in this saga since July, you had to know they’d be on fire in the aftermath of today’s decision by the players to disband the union and reject the owners’ latest proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement.
SI.com‘s Point Forward blog captured the moment in all of its enigmatic splendor shortly after the decision came down. Click here to enjoy it/punch-a-hole-in-the-wall (careful, that wall doesn’t give much).
It comes from Seattle native and rookie Isaiah Thomas shouting out another diminutive guard from the Emerald City (which boasts one of the deepest NBA rosters in the league these days), Nate Robinson:
Welp, since we ain’t playing hoop in the NBA ima sign up for a 6ft and under league back at the crib u down
It’s not nearly as funny as it would have been four months ago!
NEW LABOR LEADERS SPEAK
— 4:27 p.m.: It didn’t take long to track down the men heading up the players’ fight in what has shifted from negotiations to a lawsuit.
Both union attorney Jeffrey Kessler and his new partner David Boies answered questions for reporters in New York after the union presser earlier this afternoon. Their answers shed some interesting light on where this process is headed (text courtesy of our friends at TrueHoop.com):
Since the decertification didn’t work for the NFL, how much better is this disclaimer?Boies: Well, remember, in the NFL case, the disclaimer …. although it was ruled valid by the district court, was never really decided by the court of appeals. The point, too, in the NFL case, was whether or not there could be an injunction. As you heard in there, we are not going to seek an injunction. While we’re going to go back, and we’re going to look at legal options, you heard Billy say that one of the things the players are not going to do is go seek an injunction here.Why not?Boies: Well, my view, and this is one that Jeffrey and I may have a different view on, is that under the Norris-Laguardia Act it’s very difficult to get an injunction. That doesn’t mean you can’t have damages. And in fact, the whole point of the Norris-Laguardia Act was to stop injunctions and force the these kinds of disputes into the damage arena.Even if you could get an injunction — let’s say Jeffrey’s wrong and I’m right on this — it would be, obviously, a drawn-out process. And I think what the players are focusing on right now is what is the fastest way to get this resolved.
Kessler: If you look at it from a player’s standpoint, collective bargaining has totally failed. So rather than exercise their labor law rights to futility, they’ve decided to free up all players to exert their antitrust rights to triple damages. And we think — not we, the players — think that is the best protection for NBA players going forward.
How do you go about deciding who the plaintiffs will be?
Kessler: We’re not going to talk about any legal strategies or tactics.
Is there any indication, knowing how the NBA has been bargaining, that this will bring them back [to a more reasonable bargaining position]?
Boies: I have no expectation about that one way or another. I’m involved in this a few hours, OK?
I would hope that, in the face of a disclaiming union, where there’s no hope of collective bargaining, that the owners would reconsider whether, under these circumstances, it makes sense to continue to boycott. But I have no idea what their strategy is.
This is clearly uncharted waters for all involved, to a large extent. but these are the men that will lead the fight from the players’ side going forward. It would be wise to study up on them and their extensive histories in the litigation field.
PROPOSAL REJECTED, ANTITRUST ACTION TO BE FILED
— 2:19 p.m.: In the words of union executive director Billy Hunter, the “collective bargaining process has completely broken down” and the players have refused the league’s latest proposal. They have already begun the process to disband union. But they have not decided to decertify, there is a difference.
The players are filing a disclaimer of interest, an antitrust action against the league within the next two days. In basic terms, they are taking the league to court.
This decision puts the 2011-12 season in jeopardy and obliterates any hopes of the 72-game season that would have begun on Dec. 15 which was in the proposal the players rejected.
Hunter says players were not prepared to accept NBA Commissioner David Stern‘s ultimatum, saying they thought it was “extremely unfair.”
Stay tuned to NBA.com and NBA TV for more details.
MEETINGS OVER, PRESSER IN MINUTES ON NBA TV AND NBA.COM
— 1:47 p.m.: Meetings over!
Brace yourselves folks and tune into NBA TV and live here at NBA.com to see where things stand after the player reps’ review of the current proposal from the league.
… NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS
— 1:37 p.m: We thought things were wrapping up in New York when we saw some tweets suggesting that the end of the meeting might be at hand.
But Asch informed us it was a false alarm. Someone mistook a break in the action for the end of the meeting. Oh well, back to what you were doing folks.
STERN: NO TWEAKS
— 12:09 p.m.: Well, so much for adding a few notes and sending that proposal back to the owners for a few revisions.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league was done “negotiating” last week and he meant it. More from Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:
“I want to answer this diplomatically. The next time we meet to discuss anything, we’ll be discussing the 47 percent proposal. This is it … we’ve been negotiating this for 2½ years. The owners authorized a revised proposal, and they said if it’s not acceptable and they want to keep negotiating, we present them with a 47 percent, flex cap proposal. They know it.”
This was in response to Mahoney’s question Saturday night asking whether or not the league would accept any tweaks for further negotiations.
That, my friends, is what the good folks at Merriam-Wesbter call an ultimatum!
AGENT(S) STRIKE BACK
— 11:29 a.m.: You had to know a weekend of direct hits aimed at agents representing NBA players would be met with some sort of rebuttal from said agents.
Well, Mark Bartelstein countered, courtesy of Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:, with a straight right of his own:
“If the players are going to make the concessions to address over $300 million a year in a shift in revenue from the players to the owners, the one thing the players should get back is flexibility, freedom, freedom of choice and a more vibrant and free-market system, because it’s a zero-sum game,” Bartelstein said. “Instead, they’re ratcheting down the system in the name of competitive balance, and that’s completely disingenuous.
“A negotiation is supposed to be about making trades,” Bartelstein said. “The biggest part of any negotiation is the dollars. That’s the biggest part of this negotiation. The players are giving the owners the dollars. If the owners are concerned about competitive balance, it can absolutely be handled through revenue sharing. And the myth they’re putting out there that they can’t share losses, there’s no truth to that argument whatsoever. Revenue sharing has nothing to do with sharing profits and losses. It’s about making sure low-revenue teams can have more revenue so they can be more competitive and you can have a better product. That should be done through revenue sharing, not through getting concessions from the players.”
These are scraps we’d rather were not a part of this negotiation, but this is where we are!
SCOLA ROCKS THE VOTE
— 10:37 a.m.: Whatever the player reps decide today, there is no mistaking Luis Scola‘s position on the lockout talks. The Rockets’ big man wants the latest proposal put to a vote of the entire union.
At this point I believe that all the players should vote. not only the 30 reps.
Hard to disagree with him at this point. If nothing else, hearing from the entire union (rank and file, middle class and stars alike) would give us all a much better measure of where they stand on this latest proposal.
— 9:46 a.m.: In addition to the player reps and executive board members in attendance at the meeting in New York today, our very own Steve Aschburner is on the scene with camera (phone) in hand.
Asch spotted Russell Westbrook (red hoodie) and Luc Mbah a Moute heading into the hotel:
There are still voices suggesting that even with today’s meeting there are major hurdles in the way of a new deal. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports highlights some of the “B-list” issues that could derail the process:
If the players were to vote to accept the terms of the owners’ current proposal, the litany of B-list issues – including contraction, drug testing, Developmental League assignments and draft age eligibility – would still have to be agreed upon.
There’s a growing belief that Stern doesn’t have the ownership support to pass the very proposal he’s been pushing all weekend, and that owners would ultimately kill this deal with the list of non-negotiable B-list issues the players would oppose. This way, the league can say it worked hard to cut a fairer deal with players, but in the end, the owners will get the draconian ‘reset’ proposal that many of them have wanted all along.
“A lot of teams – more all the time – don’t like the deal on the table,” one high-ranking league official said.
That’s going to be an interesting discussion going on in that room this morning. We’re imagining this one turns into a pretty long day for all involved.
MAJOR QUESTIONS LOOM …
— 8:33 a.m.: If your head is still spinning after a weekend of rumors, misinformation, Twitter chats and the ensuing chaos flooding the scene in the wake of the NBA’s latest proposal to the union, the next 24 to 48 hours will offer you no respite.
In fact, you’re in for another heavy dose of lockout-apalooza with the representatives from all 30 teams scheduled to meet with the union’s executive board members this morning in New York. They have decisions to make, be it season-saving or season-delaying, depending on the outcome of this meeting.
If they reject the proposal (read it for yourself in a PDF version of it here) without even taking a vote, as they did the last one, we’re floating into treacherous territory. And honestly, no one wants that.
The player reps need to go over this thing with BluBlockers. They need to study every word, absorb every nuance and then decide what comes next. But they don’t need to go into that room with their minds made up before examining the proposal.
What they do after that is a bit tricky. They could review the proposal and then pass it on to their membership for a full vote, and then we’ll have to await word on that outcome. They could also review it, add their own revisions and then try to send it back to the league (though NBA Commissioner David Stern made it clear over the weekend that he is done negotiating).
Whatever happens, it’s going down today.
And the one nagging thing that’s impossible to shake from our collective psyche here at the hideout is whether or not these men, these proud players, are ready to risk the $4 billion in revenues (and all of the other periphery revenue associated with just one NBA season) for the promise of something better than what is one the table right now?
The best and most succinct summation of what the player are chewing on right now was played brilliantly by Howard Beck of The New York Times in the final two paragraphs of this story:
By any measure, the proposed deal would be a major win for the owners. The players are being asked to take a $280 million pay cut, with shorter contracts, lower raises and tighter restrictions on the top-spending teams. But league officials insist that the deal is not nearly as bad as the rumor mill suggests.
“It’s of grave concern to the league that there is an enormous amount of misinformation concerning our proposal, both on Twitter and in the more traditional media,” Adam Silver, the deputy commissioner, said Saturday night. “We believe that if the players are fully informed as to what is and is not in our proposal, they will agree that its terms are beneficial to them and represent a fair compromise.”
Beck did attempt to add a little more gravity on what’s to come in the new NBA, but this is more conjecture on the part of all involved, since no one is sure that a new collective bargaining agreement can deliver on any of the things this proposal is designed to bring. But union executive director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher are responsible for making very clear to the player reps what is on the table, not what everyone has heard is included.
(Stern used this memo to make that specific point to the players directly.)
In the name of competitive balance, ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher (the man who got us rung up by the NBA’s labor twitter feed over the weekend) has sources that continue to spell out the union’s displeasure with the current proposal. He cited several issues within the new proposal that could be stumbling blocks to an agreement, including an “unlimited escrow system”:
The escrow system would assure that owners would be reimbursed for however much they exceed the negotiated amount of basketball-related income allowed to be spent on player salaries.
In the current seven-page proposal, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN The Magazine, the players have a choice of selecting a 50-50 split of BRI or a 49-51 band.
If teams spend more than the allotted percentage, they not only retain the 10 percent of each salary held in escrow, but if that 10 percent doesn’t cover the excess then the additional funds can be deducted from a one percent of BRI dedicated to “post-career player annuity and player benefits.”
If the excess still hasn’t been satisfied, future benefits and escrow funds can be utilized to cover it. In essence, it assures the owners that no matter how much they spend in any one season, they will not have to pay more than the stated percentage.
Another source of contention from the players side, according to sources, are triggers that would implement a hard cap on any non-taxpaying teams that use an exception to sign a player.
Great. More mixed signals. That’s all we need this morning.
And that’s why today, we know you’ve heard this before, ranks as the biggest day of the lockout so far. This could be the day all this madness goes away. Or it could be the day when the real fireworks begin. We’ll know one way or another in a few hours.