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WAR OF WORDS ESCALATES IN NBA LABOR BATTLE
Published August 17, 1995
"The battle over decertification of the NBA Players Association intensified Wednesday as each side hurled inflammatory rhetoric at the other," according to David Moore in this morning's DALLAS MORNING NEWS. "Dissident" players led by Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and attorney Jeffrey Kessler held a press conference in Chicago and a teleconference with the media to reiterate their stance, and NBA Commissioner David Stern also held a teleconference to push the league's perspective. Jordan: "A fair deal begins with what we just finished. Everyone has said the league is successful, the players and the owners are both making money. Let's start with that and move forward. Don't start below that and make the players try to get that back. ... I know if David Stern represented the players, he would not ask the players to accept this deal from a business standpoint. Why is he asking us to accept this now?" Stern: "If I were a player, I would say what everyone else knows, and that is the cap was riddled with some Mickey Mouse loopholes that made us a laughing stock. We stepped up and made substantial financial promises to the players. ... I would say, hey, we have a heck of a lot better deal than the football union negotiated by a large margin. I think we struck a pretty good compromise. It's easy to use phrases like rollback, and we did tighten some loopholes. But tell me, is the ability to become a free agent after three years, is the reduction of the draft to one round, is the increase in the percentage of revenue that will push the average salary to $3 million by the end of this deal, a rollback? I would ask people to study this deal and reach their own conclusions" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/17). I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE: According to most press accounts, Stern took direct aim at Kessler for driving the campaign of "misinformation" about decertification and the proposed CBA. Stern: "I listened to a lawyer misrepresent the facts of the deal, and we owe it to our players to get the truth out. We've allowed him to occupy the public, and he's putting out all sorts of disinformation in the newspaper. Maybe I made a mistake in allowing it to be put out there without saying anything before. ... The decertificaiton effort is an attempt to kidnap the negotiation process, and we're not going to abide by the kidnapping. I hate to predict doom, but if it happens, and the owners are clear about this, I don't believe there can be a season" (Dave D'Alessandro, BERGEN RECORD, 8/17). THERE'S A MR. STERN ON LINE 1: According to Jeffrey Denberg in the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, Stern "probably will contact dissident players with a personal plea to support the new labor agreement." Stern: "I've been known to lobby our players from time to time." The commissioner also said team execs will reach out as well. Stern: "We have designated people on each team who will talk with the players because we are very interested in having a season. We will urge them to study the deal and vote." Denberg also reports that Stern will call a meeting of owners immediately after the vote (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 8/17). STICK TO YOUR OWN SPORT: Stern took at aim at NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw for urging NBA players to decertify. Stern: "I am especially perplexed as to why Gene Upshaw is going around talking to our players about decertifying. His league has a hard cap. ... I think he would worry about his own league" (L. C. Johnson, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 8/17). MORE FROM MJ & CO.: Jordan in today's CHICAGO TRIBUNE: "What we're asking, and what we're basically using decertification as, is an opportunity to get the fairest deal and he [Stern] controls that issue. We're not striking here. We want to play." Jordan, to the fans: "It's not us causing this. It's the league that has locked us out thus far, which has enabled us to do what we can to give the season back to the fans. ... We don't want the same situation as baseball. But at the same time, I don't think it's fair for them to pressure us to accept a bad deal so that the fans can criticize the players. That's the way the league is positioning this whole situation." Jordan, on the rank-and-file: "Yeah, it's a good deal for us -- for the superstars. But for these young players who are going to move forward and make this league and make the game of basketball as popular as it is today, it's not a good deal for them. That's why we're making this stand" (Terry Armour, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/17). Alonzo Mourning: "We should be compensated on our talent, our worth to our team and also the success of the team." Patrick Ewing: "It's printed that I have the most to lose, so if I can step up and put my money where my mouth is, I think all the other guys should do the same" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 8/16).