SBD/30/Leagues Governing Bodies

NBA LOCKOUT, PART I: THE BIRD EXCEPTION STILL STICKING POINT

          The NBA's "nuclear summer has begun" as Commissioner
     David Stern announced yesterday the league will lock out its
     players beginning midnight Tuesday, according to David Moore
     of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS.  The recommendation of the
     league's nine-man labor relations committee was "unanimous"
     and the "only action" the owners needed to void the final
     three years of the current CBA.  Moore writes the owners'
     decision "was driven by economics" and there are "strong
     indications this impasse is more complex and contentious"
     than previous disputes between the league and its union
     (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/30).  Stern: "We can't afford to
     play the season under the current system. ... The final
     numbers aren't in, but for the first time, as a whole, we
     believe the league was actually unprofitable last season." 
     Stern, asked if the lockout could threaten the start of the
     season: "Yes, that is fair and accurate.  Unfortunately,
     there are a number of clubs that would do better not
     operating than actually operating.  That's something the
     players don't yet understand."  NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter
     said in a statement, "Unfortunately, the owners continue to
     demand unprecedented concessions.  Until the owners abandon
     their posture of seeking one-sided concession bargaining and
     show some willingness to compromise, it is difficult to
     expect any progress" (Greg Logan, NEWSDAY, 6/30).  In S.F.,
     David Steele calls it a "mild surprise" that the league "did
     not even make a pretense of pushing negotiations" with the
     NBPA until the last moment, "announcing its intentions a
     good 32 hours before" the CBA was to expire.  Stern: "We
     were in touch with the union. ... But we really had nothing
     to talk about" (David Steele, S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/30). 
          WHAT IT MEANS: In N.Y., Mike Wise reports that while
     league business will effectively be stopped, previously-
     scheduled charity games "were spared."  Players
     rehabilitating injuries will be forced to work out
     arrangements through the team to be treated privately (N.Y.
     TIMES, 6/30).  In Boston, Peter May reports that teams will
     "forward a player's mail, and the league won't prevent
     players and management from co-mingling in social
     situations, such as weddings" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/30).  USA
     TODAY's Roscoe Nance: "For the average fan, the lockout
     won't have many visible effects" (USA TODAY, 6/30).
          NEXT MOVE: NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said the
     Larry Bird exception continues to be the sticking point in
     negotiations.  Granik: "At our last meeting, the union said
     to us that unless the owners are prepared to maintain the
     Larry Bird exception they have nothing further to talk
     about" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/30).  Granik: "We tried not
     to focus on the Bird exception as such, but we need an
     agreement that is not open-ended.  There may be one whereby
     we keep 'Bird,' or some elements of it" (DENVER POST, 6/30).
     In Chicago, Lacy Banks reports the owners want to replace
     the Bird exception with a new rule allowing high-profile,
     10-year vets to be grandfathered into the exception. The
     NBPA's Hunter: "But that's only for this year.  It's a one-
     shot deal."  Granik has proposed that a player whose
     contract has expired will be able to re-sign for his old
     deal with a 5% increase.  Teams will be allowed to go "over
     the cap" in signing players with the 5% increase (CHICAGO
     SUN-TIMES, 6/30).  Yesterday, Stern mentioned three economic
     models the league would consider: Decide on a fair share for
     the players and write a check to the union to distribute as
     it wishes; agree on a specific percentage of the gross, and
     if salaries exceed that percentage, the owners would not be
     responsible; or a hard cap (NEWSDAY, 6/30).  Hunter: "Their
     position is no hard cap, no deal. ... For lack of a better
     word, our only position on that is to go to war" (USA TODAY,
     6/30).  More Hunter: "They don't want the top player on any
     team to make more than $10 million a year.  Nobody restricts
     how much money they can make. ... When they say, 'Take it or
     leave it,' we obviously left it ... and there may have to be
     some bloodletting" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30).  Granik said the
     possibility of bringing in a mediator is an option.  The two
     sides are "not expected to meet" until after the union meets
     in Hawaii from July 6-12 (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30).  ESPN's David
     Aldridge reported it "will be a couple of months before any
     serious negotiating gets done" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/29). 
          TV MONEY: NBA owners will receive their TV rights fee
     from Turner and NBC even if the regular-season games are
     canceled.  The payments must be returned in the fourth and
     final season of the TV deal, "depending on the number of
     telecasts missed."  Stern: "That money has to be repaid to
     the networks, so it's not like extra money given to teams. 
     It was arranged so our teams would be in a position to
     survive the season without dire economic consequences in the
     short term" (Barry Jackson, MIAMI HERALD, 6/30).  In Denver,
     Mike Monroe puts the rights fee for each team at $23M
     (DENVER POST, 6/30).  NBPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler said,
     "What's really driving this [the lockout and CBA reopening]
     is that (the owners would) like to keep more of the TV deal
     than they kept under the old deal" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30). 
     In N.Y., former NBPA President Buck Williams tells Kevin
     Kernan that he believes CBS and Fox are contemplating a new
     league: "There's not a better time" (N.Y. POST, 6/30).
          HOW IT PLAYED: The lockout was the subject of front-
     page stories in USA Today, the N.Y. Post and the Houston
     Chronicle.  ESPN's "SportsCenter" led its early and late
     editions last night with the owners' declaration. 
          
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