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NBA LABOR PAINS: TWO TRAINS SPEEDING DOWN ONE TRACK
Published June 21, 1995
The NBPA "has reached an agreement with the league on a new collective bargaining agreement, but it could fall apart because of strife with the players' union," according to this morning's ORLANDO SENTINEL. Agent Lee Fentress said that player reps will discuss the deal by conference call today, but that a vote Friday in Chicago was doubtful (Susan Slusser, ORLANDO SENTINEL, 6/21). While also quoting Fentress on the "purported deal," the WASHINGTON POST's Mark Asher reports, "An agent-inspired effort by some of the game's marquee players to remove the union as its collective bargaining representative because of the union leadership's alleged secrecy in recent negotiations appeared to be gaining momentum." Agent Marc Fleisher claimed to have 61 signed decertification notices from NBA players (WASHINGTON POST, 6/21). The BOSTON GLOBE puts the number of signed notices at over 100 (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 6/21). NO DEAL, NO HOW, NO WAY: Both NBPA Exec Dir Simon Gourdine and NBA Commissioner David Stern denied that any deal had been cut. Gourdine: "Absolutely, unequivocally, categorically, we do not have a deal. ... We think it's another attempt at misinformation." Stern: "Anyone who says there's a done deal is badly misinformed." While Stern said that the NBPA's internal problems have not affected the negotiations, Murray Chass of the N.Y. TIMES cites one management attorney who acknowledged there is some concern among league officials that Gourdine might not have the "authority to make a deal" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/21). AGENTS-EYE VIEW: Marc Fleisher, on the alleged deal: "This perhaps is the most significant step backward on the NBA labor front in 20 years" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/21). Fentress: "If the agreement is close to what has been leaked, it ought to be rejected, in my view. And the only way to proceed from there is to decertify the Players Association" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 6/21). David Falk: "The players ultimately have to control their own destiny. This is their careers, we work for the players as does the union, and the players are clearly exercising the plebiscite to the union to tell them that if you don't supply us with the information we need, then we are going to have to make changes" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/20). GOURDINE'S RESPONSE: Gourdine, on with ESPN Radio's "Fabulous Sports Babe" yesterday: "If we make a deal, every single player in the NBA will have in front of him the exact same information that the player rep who is responsible for making the vote will have. So there will be an opportunity to communicate to the player rep, and of course, directly to me every players' feelings, and then we'll have the vote. ... Part of the objective I think by the agents, is to slow down the deal and to put it in jeopardy" (ESPN Radio, 6/20). Gourdine, who hopes to have a new CBA in place by the end of the week: "Because I have been involved in intense negotiations, I haven't been able to respond to the comments of a group of agents who don't seem to want to accept the difference between an advisory and a decision-making role" (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 6/21). MEDIA ROUND-UP: In Detroit, header over the FREE PRESS piece: "NBA accord is fragile" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/21). In L.A., a wire piece notes that any agreement "could be scuttled by strife within the union" (L.A. TIMES, 6/21). USA TODAY header: "Revolt against NBA players union grows." The paper also has an extensive Q&A on the issues involved (Boeck & Nance, USA TODAY, 6/21). In Phoenix, Suns Player Rep Joe Kleine defends the union's stance: "People are making judgments based on rumors. They're in disagreement with an agreement that nobody has agreed upon. ... I don't think you can have 200 agents involved. That would be chaotic" (Bob Young, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/21). Kleine told the BOSTON GLOBE: "I agree with the agents. We need to be kept informed. But to decertify the union over an agreement that isn't even an agreement yet doesn't make sense. ... It seems like Simon is trying to rush things, and that's where the problem lies" (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 6/21).