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NBA LEAGUE MEETINGS: STERN TALKS OF POTENTIAL LOCKOUT
Published September 22, 1997
At the league meetings in Orlando, NBA Commissioner David Stern suggested Friday "that the owners will exercise their option to reopen and renegotiate" the CBA after this season, according to Tim Povtak of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. Such a reopening "could lead to a player lockout, another decertification effort of the player's union and the first regular-season work stoppage in league history." Stern: "I understand the possibilities, but we'll do what we have to do. We think it [the CBA] could use some improvement." Povtak: "Even with ticket prices escalating and the popularity of the game moving globally, too many teams are beginning to lose money. Many owners don't like what they see in the future." Stern estimated that "one-third or more" of the NBA teams lost money last season and that "almost" half "are expected to lose money this season." The NBA would like to close "various loopholes" that enable teams to exceed the current salary cap and owners "want a new deal before the bidding begins next summer on a new crop of free agents." NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik: "We feel that the salary system may be out of whack." Stern: "We would like to come up with a notion that actually sees player salaries continue to rise at a rate that keeps pace with increases in revenue without seeing ticket prices rise at such an extraordinary rate" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/20). Granik, on the number of teams losing money: "That's a big difference from a few years ago, when it was only one or two teams" (Peter May, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/20). In N.Y., Mike Wise wrote that NBA labor peace "may be threatened again." The league can reopen talks at its option, without union approval, but no action can be taken until April (N.Y. TIMES, 9/20). NBPA Exec Dir Bill Hunter: "If the league is so inclined to set aside that deal, so be it. Everything will be back on the table" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/20). REAX: In Fort Lauderdale, Ira Winderman: "Based on the tone of the league's highest-ranking officials, as well as the stance of the union's newly elected leadership, a showdown appears inevitable for the lone major U.S. sports league never to experience a work stoppage" (SUN-SENTINEL, 9/20). In Boston, Peter May: "The possibility of another summer labor mess is real" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/21). USA TODAY's Greg Boeck writes that "at issue" is the league's salary structure, as "owners committed more than" $1B to long-term player deals last summer. But Boeck adds that the NBPA "is armed for a confrontation" with its newly elected President, Patrick Ewing (USA TODAY, 9/22). One NBA exec, who requested anonymity: "I think there are some big questions about whether the league can continue to work this way. Something has to be done." The exec added: "If we ever come to a period of non-growth, then the league is in deep, deep, deep trouble" (DENVER POST, 9/21).