SBD/Issue 150/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NBPA Willing To Meet Over CBA, But Not Convinced Of Necessity

Hunter (r) Says Players, He Will Collectively
Decide If Things As Dire As Stern (l) Indicates
NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter yesterday said he is willing to meet with NBA Commissioner David Stern this summer to begin talks about a new CBA, but players are not convinced at this time that economic conditions at the league are so dire that the players need to make major changes. "It is up to David and the owners to convince us of the urgency of the situation," Hunter said during a phone call yesterday. "We have an open mind. But this is a negotiation, it is not a one-sided give-away." Hunter indicated that talks may start sometime in July. He said he and players will "go in and sit down and listen to what are the owners' concerns and collectively make a determination if things are as abysmal as the commissioner thinks." Hunter: "I don’t see it yet." Hunter and Stern had a few one-on-one meetings in February, but have not met since. Hunter said he knows more about the league's position from "stories I have been reading in the papers" than from talks with the league, noting that there have been recent reports about "a more equitable distribution of revenues." Under the current CBA, NBA players receive 57% of revenues (Mullen & Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal).

STATING HIS CASE: Hunter said, "If there's justifications for some of the exchanges that they're referring to, then we'll have to consider them. But what I'm saying to you is, it's not going to be any one-sided negotiations, where it's about all these givebacks by the players. We're going into a negotiation. It's not a surrender." In N.Y., Howard Beck reports Hunter contends the NBA's model is "generally healthy and suggested that the union would agree to extend the current deal with only minor 'tweaks.'" But while Hunter and Stern "have tried to present a united front," the divisions are "quickly becoming evident." Stern last week "identified the revenue split between players and owners as 'the biggest issue' facing the league -- an indication that he will push to reduce the players' 57[%] share." The NBPA will "clearly resist that effort, and has its own ideas for altering the business model." Hunter indicated that he "would lobby for broad revenue sharing between teams as part of the new labor deal." Beck notes NBA teams "share revenue from sponsorships, merchandising and national television rights, but they do not split local TV revenue or gate receipts." It is "not clear whether the league would consider a broader, NFL-style program." Meanwhile, despite the economic downturn, Hunter said that he is "not convinced that the labor deal needed major changes because it was already built to react to the market" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/23). Hunter added that he wants all NBA owners to "disclose team financial records in advance" of CBA negotiations, noting that under rules, the NBPA "can conduct limited audits of five teams a year." Hunter: "We would like as much information as we can get." NBA VP/Basketball Communications Tim Frank said in an e-mail, "We will open the books of all teams as part of collective bargaining, just as we have done in our prior negotiations" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 4/23).

Stern Says People Have To Make
Adjustments In All Businesses
THE OTHER SIDE: Stern discussed the impending CBA talks and said, "When you look around and you see the various cutbacks that are going on in industry, you understand that people have to make adjustments in all businesses. I think that we'll be talking with our players about adjustments." Stern: "Our system to a degree is self-adjusting. As revenues go down, since we share revenues with the players currently at 57%, the amount that they'll get is less than they could have expected. But I think even the 57% number is somewhat on the high side. So there's tough negotiations coming" ("Monsters in the Morning," CSN Chicago, 4/22). Stern added the league believes a successful CBA "is going to be a balanced agreement that takes care of our players, our teams and particularly our fans. We think if we come through with a good agreement the league will remain on the growth curve that it currently finds itself." Meanwhile, Stern said the restructured officiating department at the league, led by NBA Senior VP/Referee Operations Ron Johnson, is "doing a great job." He said team owners "seemed to be quite pleased with him" (ESPN Radio, 4/21).

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