SBD/June 1, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The NBA and the NBPA will meet today in Miami, with two more bargaining sessions expected when the Finals move to Dallas for Game Three as the June 30 deadline of the current CBA nears. "The question is whether the owners and the players will be bold enough to do what has to be done here to keep this sport on the track that it is on now, which is straight up," said NBA Commissioner David Stern during a press conference prior to Game One of the Finals last night in Miami. NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said he expected both the owners and the union to submit their best proposals in the month leading up to the June 30 deadline. "It is a very real deadline," Silver said. "And while we have incurred some damage already, it will move to a new level once we're in a work stoppage, if that were to occur." Silver added that there has been no talk with the union of extending the June 30 CBA deadline. "We're not at that point yet where we've even considering doing that here," Silver said (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal). BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Scott Soshnick notes the meeting marks “the first talks in about two weeks” between the NBA and NBPA and shows “a sense of urgency ahead of the June 30 expiration” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 6/1). Silver said that the “damage to the business of the league has already been incurred because marketing partners and licenses cannot plan for next season.” Stern said that the CBA deadline “could be extended.” But he added, “That would require some more intense negotiations than we currently can report on” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 6/1).
TIME IS NOW: Stern was asked following the press conference “why he’s so confident a worse deal would be struck after July 1,” to which he replied, “Because the damage gets to be intense from our perspective. We know the deal can get worse.” Stern said it would be worse “for the players.” Stern: “And to us, the deal will get worse for the owners. So we’ve got to decide to focus fully on how bad it will be after July 1. So June 30 is a really important date” (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/31). Meanwhile, in Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes Stern “didn’t rule out” that the Heat's "Big Three" of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh “could be collectively-bargained out of existence” in a new CBA. When asked if a hard cap would mean teams with multiple star players would have to “shed one of their contracts,” Stern said, “That’s part of the negotiation.” Stern: “There are all kinds of negotiations that go on in these things between teams that have different roster make-ups and among teams that gross different amounts generally when it comes to revenue sharing. This is very complex” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 6/1).
WANTING IT BOTH WAYS? The AP’s Paul Newberry writes there is “a disconnect when David Stern starts talking about the state of the NBA.” Stern and the owners “claim to be losing hundreds of millions of dollars, even while attendance is up, television ratings are booming and merchandise sales are off the charts.” Stern “keeps calling the NBA a success,” but in the “very next breath, he’ll rail against an economic system that supposedly has the owners on the verge of financial ruin.” Newberry: “Apparently, things have never been better. … So why are the owners about to shut things down?” (AP, 6/1). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote Stern “wants to put pressure on the faceless ‘owners’ and ‘union,’ but in the end he’s the oversized commissioner here.” If the league is “going to shoot itself in the foot on June 30, he’ll be holding the gun.” The NBA is “as popular as ever, with a slew of likable, excitable young stars.” Most of the big-market franchises “are in order,” and there is a “pile of revenues to be made, especially with NFL marketing dollars exposed because of that league’s own labor strife.” Wetzel: “And here’s the NBA, about to watch a big chance sail by” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/31).
FOLLOWING IN NFL'S FOOTSTEPS? SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Liz Mullen reports NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter “has agreed to meet with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George Cohen, who tried to mediate the NFL labor dispute in the weeks leading up to the NFL lockout.” Hunter said that he “had not made any decision on whether NBA players as a group would agree to enter mediation but said he had agreed to meet Cohen after Cohen reached out to him.” Hunter: “He contacted David Stern and he contacted me.” Hunter said that the NBPA “will continue to meet with the NBA and that the union was discussing ‘concepts’ with league negotiators in small-group meetings.” He said that he “had not lost hope about reaching a settlement.” Hunter: “It’s my nature. I’m not going to write it off -- the possibility of reaching an agreement” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/30 issue).
SMALL MARKETS A BIG FORCE? In Salt Lake City, Brian Smith noted sports labor analysts said that small-market NBA teams “could be the ones soon controlling collective bargaining agreement negotiations if the NBA’s bright lights go dark July 1.” A lockout “would not just result in the NBA versus the NBA Players Association.” It would be “a three-part battle, with financially burdened lesser-known teams fighting for a profitable existence.” ESPN.com's Larry Coon said, "If a team is in the red, they’re better off not playing than they are playing. … Pretty much everybody sees the economic system is broken." Stern said the league wants “a system where fans believe that their team has a real shot” at the NBA championship (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/31).
SUMMER SCHOOL DENIED: Bobcats coach Paul Silas yesterday said that the NBA denied the team's "plans to host a multi-team, free-agent camp after this month’s draft and before” the CBA expires on July 1. The Heat, Grizzlies and Hawks “were scheduled to bring free agents and possibly draft picks to Time Warner Cable Arena.” The teams “even reserved hotel rooms for the series of workouts and scrimmages on two courts at the facility before plans changed.” NBA Senior VP/Basketball Communications Tim Frank said that “it would have been too similar to July’s summer leagues, which are normally held next month in Las Vegas and Orlando.” Frank: “With what the teams wanted to do, it was really acting as a summer league. No summer leagues are permitted to be run until after July 1” (AP, 5/31).
The NFL is "ahead of the pace on season-ticket sales compared with this point last year, a counter-intuitive trend given the uncertainty of the league’s 2011 season with a lockout that has now stretched into its 12th week," according to Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The gains were "ascribed in part to the earlier sales start many teams used this year in anticipation of a potential lockout, which began March 12." The selling season "traditionally begins in mid- to late March." Specific sales numbers and "details on the gains compared with last year could not be determined" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/30 issue). Meanwhile, Kaplan reports the NFL "may allow teams to artificially reduce their seating capacities in order to ease compliance with the league’s blackout policy, which requires a sellout 72 hours in advance in order for a game to be broadcast in the home team’s market." Owners discussed the potential change last week during their spring meeting in Indianapolis, and it "could be brought up for a vote as early as a league meeting in Chicago on June 21." Referring to the number of seats that must be sold to trigger a sellout, Giants President & CEO John Mara said, "We talked about reducing manifests for blackout purposes" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/30 issue).
ROOKIE ORIENTATION: In Boston, Karen Guregian reports the NFLPA has decided to "run its own version of the annual rookie symposium" after the league canceled the event because of the lockout. All 254 drafted rookies will be invited to the event, "The Business of Football, Rookie Edition," June 28-29 in DC. Attendance "will not be mandatory, but the NFLPA will pick up the cost of travel and lodging." Patriots draftee Shane Vereen said, "It’s definitely something I would be interested in. I really think it will help, especially if they’re going to have past and present NFL players there" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/1). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote it "won't hurt" NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith to "curry a little good favor with many of his constituents." If the NFL lockout "drags on, more than a few people are going to be angling to oust Smith" (BOSTON.com, 5/31). Meanwhile, an NFL official yesterday said that the "supplemental draft will be held sometime in July -- if there are applicants." The league official said, "So far, there have been no applicants." The official added that "no deadline for applying for the draft has been set" (ESPN.com, 5/31).
MORE COACHES SIDE WITH OWNERS: In New Orleans, Mike Triplett reported the Saints coaches "voiced their support for the team's ownership during the NFL labor battle on Friday, stressing that no members of the staff are part of the NFL Coaches Association," which last week filed an amicus brief in support of the NFLPA. Saints LB coach Joe Vitt said he and his fellow coaches were "appalled by the NFLCA's decision." He added, "It was awful presumptuous on their part that they would represent all the coaches on our staff. We're supporting the owners. I've said this a million times, our organization has been built on trust. (Owner Tom) Benson has been great to us. Unequivocally, we support our ownership" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/28).
I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW: In N.Y., Judy Battista notes on Friday, the "most pivotal hearing of the lockout that has shuttered the league since March 12 will take place in St. Louis," where the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals "will hear arguments on the NFL's request to reverse the injunction that would stop the lockout." The hearing "has loomed so large in the fight for leverage that court-ordered mediated negotiations have gone nowhere since they began in April, as both sides waited for the balance of power to be settled." The outcome, "expected by early July, will strongly influence when, and under what conditions, the NFL will play this season." An NFL brief states the league will ask the judges to reverse the injunction, and also to issue a broad ruling that makes clear "that the solution to this dispute over terms and conditions of employment lies with the labor laws and not in the antitrust courts." Battista notes that decision would most likely lay the groundwork for the league to seek the dismissal of the case" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/1). In Milwaukee, Michael Hunt writes, "This thing is probably over after the next ruling. ... As much as the players deserve to win this squabble the owners started, I can't see the players doing anything but eventually giving in if the lockout is upheld. Unfortunately, not enough of them are financially prepared to miss more than a paycheck or two" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/1).
AN IMPERFECT UNION? Smith insists that he has "embraced decertification as an enduring state of existence." He revealed that he "envisions navigating the NFLPA through a union-free future, even after a possible settlement of the Brady et al antitrust lawsuit and a new contractual agreement between players and owners." Smith said, "When I went into this, my attitude was that the only way you have power is collectively, and I believed in unions as vehicles for employees asserting their rights. But looking back on what Gene [Upshaw] experienced and understanding this particular situation, I’ve now come to appreciate the value of decertification in our particular circumstance. And I don’t see why we’d want to go back to being a union." YAHOO SPORTS' Michael Silver noted "absent a union, players would be free to assert their legal rights under the Sherman Antitrust Act, and accepted institutions such as the NFL draft and rules governing free agency would be vulnerable to courtroom challenges" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/27). In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote it is "completely logical to believe there will be some kind of player revolt in August if the lockout is still in place, if there's still no sign of an imminent agreement and it becomes apparent that regular-season game checks will be missed." One former NFLer said, "I still think De and his staff and the player reps have done enough in communicating why the players are in this position that they are in. They may have to do more as the time approaches" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/29).