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The NFL approved a new 10-year labor deal Thursday night at about 7:00pm ET that would lift the lockout, but the owners’ euphoria was short lived as it became clear the players had not signed off on the deal. In fact, NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen in an e-mail to player reps shortly after the vote suggested strongly the owners could be violating labor law by linking the deal to the NFLPA re-forming as a union. “In addition to depriving the players of the time needed to consider forming a union and making needed changes to the old Agreement, this proposed procedure would in my view also violate federal labor laws,” he wrote in the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by the SportsBusiness Journal. “Those laws prohibit employers from coercing their employees into forming a union, and could result in any Agreement reached through the procedure being declared null and void" (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). The owners voted 31-0 -- the Raiders abstained -- to "OK the labor deal, pending players' approval." NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith sent a letter to the 32 player reps less than an hour later that said, "Issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open; other issues, such as workers' compensation, economic issues and end-of-deal terms, remain unresolved. There is no agreement between the NFL and the players at this time." NFL players then "held a conference call and decided not to take a vote, saying they hadn't seen the full proposal approved by owners." Browns WR Joshua Cribbs: "This is a 10-year deal. We can't enter into it lightly. So fans have to understand that until we can completely dissect the CBA, we can't go forward." Some players "claimed that owners snuck some items in the deal," but NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello disputed that notion. Aiello said, "It's really not true. Anything that we put in this press release was discussed and negotiated with the players. And now the next step is for them to approve it" (NFL.com, 7/22).
WHAT LIES AHEAD? NFLPA leaders said that a "vote among its 32 player representatives appears likely Friday after the group received the 'finishing points' of the agreement NFL owners approved Thursday." The NFLPA did not receive those details "until after a two-hour conference call with player reps came to a conclusion without a vote Thursday night." An NFLPA source said, "All in all, despite the games that were played by the NFL, things look much more optimistic." One of the "sticking points for the NFLPA is that some players want an opt-out clause seven years into the 10-year deal." The clause, which "would include a penalty for the side" that exercised it, is "not necessarily a deal-breaker, but some players continue to recommend it." The players also are "at odds with the league's condition that players recertify as a union before owners will lift the lockout." The NFLPA "wants players to sign cards to authorize the NFLPA to become a union again, just as it did during the decertification process" (ESPN.com, 7/22). NFLPA President Kevin Mawae in a statement Friday morning said player leadership is discussing the most recent written proposal with the NFL. The discussions include a settlement agreement, deal terms and the right process for addressing recertification. Several NFL team owners and league officials, as well as the NFLPA's Smith, are in Boston to attend Friday's funeral for Myra Kraft, wife of Patriots Owner Robert Kraft. Mawae said, "There will not be any further NFLPA statements today out of respect for the Kraft family while they mourn the loss of Myra Kraft" (THE DAILY). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports players "finally got those final details" about the new agreement by the time the conference call finished Thursday night. Mortensen: "The word I got was, ‘We’re analyzing it. It doesn’t look so bad. I’d say we’re a little more optimistic,’ and they expect certainly to proceed" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/22). On Long Island, Bob Glauber notes while it "appeared the sides had agreed on most economic issues for a new collective bargaining agreement, the players still believe there are enough significant issues unresolved to require more bargaining" (NEWSDAY, 7/22).
YOUR MOVE: In N.Y., Judy Battista reports as of Thursday night, there "were indications that players were unhappy that the owners had approved an agreement they had not yet seen, with a timeline for re-forming the union that they felt rushed them -- in effect putting immense pressure on players to approve the deal or be blamed for its failure." If players "were to reject the deal, it would plunge the NFL into further uncertainty -- and perhaps even more negotiation -- with less than two months until the regular season is scheduled to begin." The owners' plan "was meant to solve a significant problem that emerged Thursday: the sides were at odds over how long it should take for the players union to re-form," a necessity for a CBA to be completed and the lockout to end. Among the "other parts of the proposal the owners approved: all outstanding litigation, including the players’ antitrust suit and the television contracts lawsuit, would be withdrawn, the league said; no settlement payments would be made to any of the 10 named plaintiffs in the antitrust suit; and there would be no payment of the $310 million in benefit money that owners did not have to pay in 2010, but that players demanded at the end of negotiations" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/22). An NFLPA official Thursday night said, "Tell everybody to calm down. (We) haven’t come this far to derail a deal" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/22). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "There’s universal feeling that eventually, the players will approve this proposal. … This is like buying a luxury new car (and) haggling over the floor mats. … They’re going to get this deal done. The question is, when?” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 7/21).
Smith says that he was suprised by NFL's new
supplemental revenue-sharing program
ELEMENT OF SURPRISE: NFL sources "denied the deal had been significantly changed since the basic framework was agreed upon last week, pointing to the fact Commissioner Roger Goodell was in constant phone contact with Smith leading up to the early evening vote by the owners" (N.Y. POST, 7/22). Multiple owners insisted that "both sides had reached an agreement." Upon hearing the NFLPA's reaction to the owners' approval, Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson said, "That's baffling to me. We believe we have handshake agreement with the players." Giants President & CEO John Mara: "We believe we have an agreement. Now it's up to the players" (ESPN.com, 7/22). Colts Owner Jim Irsay: "You can only control what you can control. We’re optimistic and trying to do our part. There’s a lot of moving parts, but everything’s headed in the right direction." Falcons Owner Arthur Blank said that the "talks recently accelerated." Blank: "I don’t know if it was a matter of losing money. I’m sure it was a factor indirectly. Directly, I think there’s a commitment from the league and the players as well to not lose games" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 7/22). Steelers President Art Rooney II: "We did the best we could, and both sides made a lot of compromises. We felt like if we waited any longer, we would put the whole thing in jeopardy as far as camps opening on time and things like that" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/22). Richardson said, "(After) we've negotiated so hard and they've received so many things they thought were important, I can't imagine why they would not [ratify it]. We've done what we're supposed to do. We've done our half. It's their choice now." But Panthers P and alternate player rep Jason Baker in a text message said, "We haven't seen a proposal. Once we do we will take the necessary time to make sure the players understand the facts, then make the appropriate decisions at that time" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/22).
FALSE ALARM: In DC, Rich Campbell notes the owners "left Thursday's meeting with a sense of accomplishment." Redskins Owner Dan Snyder said, "I think it's a win-win for both sides. I'm just excited about this season and getting going. ... Both sides come out on top and together" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/22). In Miami, Jeff Darlington notes after the owners ratified the agreement, the league "even distributed a proposed schedule, contingent on the players' decision to ratify and agree" to the new CBA (MIAMI HERALD, 7/22). In Illinois, Bob LeGere notes the "celebratory nature of the owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell created a couple of hours of elation until the players refused to be rushed into rubber-stamping the agreement" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 7/22). SI.com's Peter King reports what "struck one owners' source Thursday night as so incredible was the impression that was left in the owners' room three hours earlier -- that this was a deal the union would agree to, despite the fact that there would be hard feelings over issues lost on both sides." There had been "two long conversations between Smith and Goodell, an attempt to build a bridge that would result in a dual vote late in the day." King: "It sounded very much like the good-feeling balloon was bursting Thursday night, and the players ended their conference call without voting on the owners' proposal" (SI.com, 7/22). In N.Y., Myers & Vacchiano write, "These sides have been fighting so hard for every word in the agreement, there was no reason to believe this would end easily" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/22). But in Denver, Mike Klis writes Goodell and the owners should be "flagged for a false start." Klis: "Why did Goodell and the owners not wait before standing before the microphones Thursday in Atlanta?" (DENVER POST, 7/22).
NFLPA President Kevin Mawae in a statement Friday morning said player leadership is discussing the most recent written proposal with the NFL after the owners ratified the agreement Thursday night. The discussions include a settlement agreement, deal terms and the right process for addressing recertification. Several NFL team owners and league officials, as well as NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, are in Boston to attend Friday's funeral for Myra Kraft, wife of Patriots Owner Robert Kraft. Mawae said, "There will not be any further NFLPA statements today out of respect for the Kraft family while they mourn the loss of Myra Kraft" (THE DAILY). In Houston, John McClain reports NFL players believe the owners' ratification of a new CBA is a "power play to pressure them into approving the agreement when they don't know if all the details had been agreed upon." The 32 player reps did not vote on the agreement during their conference call Thursday night, and Texans OT and player rep Eric Winston said, "They couldn't ask us to vote on something we didn't see. When we do see it, maybe it's exactly what we talked about, but we don't know that now. ... This is a 10-year agreement. Why would we vote on it when we're not sure about everything that's in it? That wouldn't make sense." He added, "They set an artificial timeline (Thursday) and kind of held us hostage to it. That's never been our timeline. It's like they set it up and then snapped their fingers expecting us to jump" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/22). The players reportedly received copies of the proposal at 10:30pm ET (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/22). When asked if owners "tried to slip provisions into a CBA that had not been agreed to by the two sides," an NFLPA source said, "Yup. Politics" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/22). NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen in an e-mail to player reps shortly after the voted suggested strongly the owners could be violating labor law by linking the deal to the NFLPA re-forming as a union.
PLAYER REACTIONS: Chiefs C and player rep Rudy Niswanger said, "This is not about an artificial timeline. The only timeline we're truly operating under right now is when the deal is right. ... If we rush the end game to this deal, one side or the other isn't going to be happy with what we're dealing with" (K.C. STAR, 7/22). Vikings P Chris Kluwe said, "It's disappointing that the owners would try to change the terms of this carefully negotiated CBA right before presenting it to the players. If they try to present us with a fait accompli, then I think they're sadly underestimating the players' unity" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/22). Ravens WR Donte Stallworth: "We all want to start football on time. But we feel like we've been backed into the corner" (Baltimore SUN, 7/22). Chargers C and player rep Nick Hardwick: "I can't put a timeline on it. Our leadership can't put a timeline on it. We're not going to be rushed into taking something we're going to regret down the line" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/22). Many players took to their Twitter feeds Thursday night to express their reactions to the owners' vote. Saints FB Heath Evans wrote, "Here is what the 'Real' fans need 2 know: The owners tried 2 slip many things n2 the CBA 'they' voted on that were NEVER agreed 2! #PRPlay." Steelers S and player rep Ryan Clark: "The owners want u to believe that they have been extremely fair everywhere and this is their 'olive branch' to finalize it. Media mind games." Redskins DT and player rep Vonnie Holliday: "It's sad that the owners played this card! We want to get back to work & have been trying to do so! Don't buy into the hype." Free agent WR Mike Sims-Walker: "So yall expect us to sign a 400 page deal in a hour without thoroughly looking thru it?" Cardinals K Jay Feely: "A lot of criticism of greedy players not taking deal. We are being prudent business men. We need to review the offer & it's new terms first" (TWITTER.com, 7/21). But Bears QB Caleb Hanie on Twitter wrote, "I'd like to pre-emptively cast my vote for yes on any agreement put in front of me. Let's get to work" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/22).
POWER PLAY: ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote Thursday's vote was an "obvious power play by owners, who want to pressure players into accepting their latest proposal and see how they respond to public pressure." Players are "calling this the owners' version of a CBA," not the players'. One player who was on the NFLPA player rep call said, "What they said they voted on were things we didn't even agree to. Players were ticked off at owners and have just dug a deeper trench." Clayton noted part of the "power play by owners is to protect their legal position but also force a deadline for the players to come back as a union, which is vital if there is going to be a 10-year agreement." Owners also "want to resolve this crazy situation without losing more games" (ESPN.com, 7/21). CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brisson noted it is "clear that the decision to ratify a proposal the players weren't aware of didn't sit well with everyone on the NFLPA side." Bills S and player rep George Wilson said, "This is nothing more than an attempt to get the fans to turn on the players" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21). 49ers LB Takeo Spikes said the deal was a “straight power move by the owners” and the players “all thought it was disrespectful" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN2, 7/22). ESPN's Herm Edwards said, "When you hear both parties speaking right now, the players … are looking at this thing going, ‘Have we just been hoodwinked or maybe even bamboozled? We’re not quite sure what we just bought in to.'" ESPN's Sal Paolantonio: "It's clear, in some ways, this is a power play by the owners" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 7/21). In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes under the header, "NFL Owners Try To Pull A Fast One On Players." The league "has not-so-subtly shifted the public pressure of millions of football fans square into the players' chests." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners "no doubt believe the best way to push this negotiating football over the goal line is with the leverage of public pressure" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/22).
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE: CBSSPORTS.com's Ray Ratto wrote in announcing that they "had agreed to what they called 'a settlement,' the owners basically tried to bait a hook to catch a fish that is at least as smart as they are." Ratto: "They managed to pull a fast one so slowly that not only did the NFL Players Association figure it out, the media did too, which means the fans did -- and now the owners look even more galactically disingenuous than ever before. And that's saying something. ... This was yet more proof that the owners believe the players and their elected representatives are truly stupid and unworthy of being negotiated with in good faith" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21). In S.F., Vittorio Tafur writes it was a "bad power move, a botched attempt to put the onus on the players and open them up to possible fan outrage by not ratifying the 'new deal'" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/22). In Houston, Jerome Solomon writes under the header, "Owners' Bully Tactics Aside, Football Around The Corner." It was "funny watching the owners pat themselves on the backs for a job well done" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/22). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes under the header, "Goodell Fumbles As Players Reject Owners' Power Play." Mellinger: "What we're seeing now is the illustration of a major distrust many players have of Goodell and the owners" (K.C. STAR, 7/22). In St. Petersburg, John Romano writes it "just felt terribly manipulative of NFL owners to ratify an agreement Thursday that commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the players had not yet approved" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/22). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote the owners "prematurely declared labor peace" as a way of "generating public pressure on the players to capitulate." Some players "watching Goodell during his press conference were incredulous." One player said, "It was arrogant." Another said, "It was serious gamesmanship designed to make us look bad" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21).
BALL'S IN YOUR COURT: In Oakland, Monte Poole writes under the header, "Clever Underhanded Genius By NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell And Owners." Poole: "What Goodell and the owners did was put the pressure squarely on the players -- and invite further acrimony. ... It may have cracked the image the players have projected through this tedious standoff" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 7/22). ESPN's Tom Jackson said, "If you are the NFLPA, you're sitting there right now with a tremendous amount of public pressure on you to ratify this deal" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 7/21). KNBR-AM's Damon Bruce said, "Roger Goodell wouldn't go out there on national television and lay it out like that. I mean there's speculation that they were trying to put the onus on the players, but that's really hanging himself out to dry and making himself look bad" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 7/21). In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan writes under the header, "Snookered Or Not, Players Staring At Fair Deal." It "strained credulity" that Goodell and the owners "would announce approval of a deal the players hadn't agreed to -- not because of their inherent decency, but because it would be all too easy to prove they were lying." Sheridan: "It would take even more gall and arrogance to pull a stunt like that than the owners have previously exhibited, and they've exhibited plenty. It would also take remarkable stupidity, since such a ploy would surely be exposed and would look terrible in the court of public opinion" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/22). Also in Philadelphia, Paul Domowitch writes the owners' actions put the NFLPA's Smith "in a bad light and makes him look like a flipping idiot" during his first labor deal. The owners are "suggesting that they signed off on the terms of a deal with him and now he can't get the players to agree to it" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/22).
The NFL owners voted Thursday night to approve an agreement that calls for players to "reduce their split of the league revenues to 47 percent (from roughly 53 percent under the previous CBA) in return for promises to double those revenues" during the life of the 10-year contract, according to Bart Hubbuch of the N.Y. POST. Under the proposed CBA, the salary cap would drop to $120.375M per team this season, down from $128M in '09, "but teams would be required to commit much more to player salaries in a given season." That commitment would see the salary floor rise from 85% to 89%. The players also would get "lifetime medical coverage, better benefits for retirees and would see their offseason workload lessened." Hubbuch notes the deal "would be a clear victory for the owners in other areas, though, particularly in getting rookie salaries under control." All draft picks "would be required to sign four-year contracts for significantly less money than in previous years, with teams getting the option for a fifth year on their first-round picks" (N.Y. POST, 7/22). NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash on Thursday said that there "would be no judicial oversight of this collective bargaining agreement by the federal judiciary, as there was in the last CBA, when owners were angered by several decisions by" U.S. District Court Judge David Doty. Moving forward, appeals will be made "in the more traditional ways of sports leagues -- through independent special masters" (SI.com, 7/22). Pash indicated that the NFL "plans to institute random blood testing for human growth hormone this season." Pash added that the new policy comes with "the full and required cooperation" of the NFLPA (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/22).
MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE: In L.A., Sam Farmer reports players with expired contracts "would be eligible for unrestricted free agency after four seasons, as opposed to the six required last year." In addition, the regular season "would be kept at 16 games, and several measures would be put in place to limit off-season workouts and the amount of practice in helmets and pads throughout the season" (L.A. TIMES, 7/22). The current format of 16 regular-season games and four preseason contests would remain for "at least the next three seasons," but the NFL and NFLPA can negotiate the "implementation of an 18-game slate starting with" the '14 season (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/22). Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson said, "We responded in the areas that the players were really concerned about and we call those the health issues and that was really the reason that we were willing to move off of our request for the 18-game schedule" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/21). Giants President & CEO John Mara said, "I can't say we got everything we wanted to get out of this deal and I'm sure they would probably say the same thing. Usually when that happens, it means it's a fair deal, and I firmly believe that this is a fair deal" (NEWSDAY, 7/22).
LAST MAN STANDING: FOXSPORTS.com's Nancy Gay noted Thursday's "lone abstention in the 31-0 landslide approval" of the proposed agreement came from the Raiders. While Raiders Owner Al Davis did not attend the Atlanta meetings, Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask, acting on his authority, said that team officials "had deep concerns about certain aspects of the agreement that prevented them from voting yes." Trask: "We have profound philosophical differences on a number of issues, both of a football and an economic nature. We have been very consistent in expressing these differences to the league." Among the Raiders' concerns are "the revised free agency rules that include unrestricted free agency for players after four accrued seasons; the revised revenue-sharing plan that seemingly hands more power to big-market clubs" and the "transition rules to protect veteran players" in '11 (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/21). CSNCALIFORNIA.com's Paul Gutierrez wrote as more details "emerge from what appears to be a cloak and dagger attempt by the owners to sneak a few elements into the new CBA ... the Raiders appear to have actually taken the high road." Gutierrez: "The Raiders voting 'no' might have been seen as a more courageous move. But by merely abstaining, Davis thumbed his nose at convention. Again" (CSNCALIFORNIA.com, 7/21).
WHAT ABOUT THE LITTLE GUY? Bengals Owner Mike Brown, one of two owners to vote against the last CBA in '06, said, "I think this is a deal that understands what is needed from both sides. There were compromises made on both sides." In Cincinnati, Joe Reedy notes one reason Brown voted against the deal in '06 was because he "felt it did not address the needs of small-market teams like the Bengals." When asked if the new deal better addresses those concerns, Brown said, "It's an agreement where all sides are satisfied" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/22). The Bills were the other team that "voted against the last labor deal" in '06, but they also "approved the new labor system" on Thursday (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/22). SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said on a "competitive-balance issue, it's unknown how this deal will affect" small-market teams. Ganis: "They will be able to make fewer mistakes. ... With the 90 percent annual salary floor that's in place on an annual basis, teams will be signing players to longer-term deals. Making mistakes in judgment about players will hurt even more in the long run." Ganis added that about 75% of the NFL's revenue "is shared among the teams," and he "sees that number increasing in coming years, if only in small percentages" (K.C. STAR, 7/21).
The NFL Thursday night announced that the Pro Football HOF Game on Aug. 7 has been canceled and “won’t be rescheduled,” according to Steve Doerschuk of the Canton REPOSITORY. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “The time is just too short.” The HOF “must refund the face value of the approximately 14,000 tickets that were sold” for the Rams-Bears game and “take a financial hit from losing an event that annually draws a sold-out house of about 23,000.” Pro Football HOF VP/Communications & Exhibits Joe Horrigan said, “It’s a disappointment, but not a surprise.” The HOF Game has been “joined at the hip to the annual enshrinement ceremonies.” The game for years "was played on a Saturday night, hours after” the HOF induction. In recent years, the HOF Game “has been played a day after the enshrinement” (Canton REPOSITORY, 7/22). Horrigan said that “a significant part of the Hall's annual budget is derived from ticket and merchandise sales from” the game. He added that the “three hours prime-time exposure on NBC's game telecast had an immeasurable impact on the Hall and the city of Canton.” Most of the "other events over 10 days of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival will go on as scheduled” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/22). Bears President & CEO Ted Phillips said, “Because we have Richard Dent being enshrined, it's disappointing from that standpoint, but probably the most fair given the circumstances of the off-season that every team starts training camp on the same day" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 7/22). Rams Exec VP/Football Operations & COO Kevin Demoff said, “We will still be in Canton to honor Marshall Faulk and Les Richter, and this doesn't change how special a day it will be for two great Rams players” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/22).
DIDN'T HAVE A CHOICE: In Chicago, Biggs & McClure note the cancelation of the game is “no surprise.” The Bears and Rams “were supposed to report to camp Friday." The teams will be "showing up at least five days late, which would have given them at most 10 days to prepare for the game and made player safety a significant issue.” Bears LB Brian Urlacher said, "It's a preseason game. It doesn't mean anything. So that's one less chance we have to get people hurt. I definitely respect the Hall of Fame and all that stuff, but again, it doesn't mean anything. I'm not mad one bit about it being canceled" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/22). ESPN CHICAGO’s Michael Wright noted “publicly and privately, several players had expressed concern about safety if the league forced the teams to play the game on its originally scheduled date.” Bears S Chris Harris said, “I'm not going to fight them on it. Everybody else plays four (games), and to be selected to play in that fifth preseason game can be a little taxing, especially with as little preparation as we're going to have” (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 7/21).
There has not "been even a trickle of top players" who are looking to follow Nets G Deron Williams to Europe, and NBA agents have indicated that it is because "no one is quite sure yet whether the contract that Williams signed will be held as legal by FIBA," according to Sean Deveney of SPORTING NEWS. One agent said, "Everybody is waiting to see what happens with Williams. If FIBA says it’s not a legal contract, everybody’s going to have to go back to the drawing board. You never know with this kind of thing. There’s no need to start looking for a contract for NBA guys if you’re not sure they can have that out clause." Deveney reports the "out clause is the issue that is being considered with the Williams deal" to play for Turkish club Besiktas. FIBA could determine that "such a clause is illegal, on the grounds that it detracts from the stability of the Turkish league." FIBA is expected to rule "within 10 days" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/22). However, ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported one prominent NBA agent is "completely sold on the idea of players competing for teams in Europe or Asia during the lockout." The agent estimated that 80% of NBA players "are pursuing, considering, or open to the idea of playing overseas." He said that agents "aren't being forthright publicly about their clients' desires to play overseas because there are only a limited number of opportunities available and they want to keep their negotiations secret." Still, Broussard noted "other agents weren't so high on the idea of playing overseas." Some believe that it "wasn't worth it for a superstar player with a large NBA contract to risk injury by playing overseas" (ESPN.com, 7/21).
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman Thursday said that Lakers G Kobe Bryant's reps "have had conversations about a deal for him to play" for the Turkish club. Ataman said that the team is "trying to satisfy Bryant's salary demands so that he can join" Williams in Turkey. Ataman noted the money to pay Bryant's salary would come from the club itself and a "special sponsor that we are talking with." Bryant already has an endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines. Ataman said that Bryant, like Williams, would "have an opt-out clause to leave Besiktas when the NBA lockout ends" (L.A. TIMES, 7/22). Player agent Mark Bartelstein said he is "aggressively pursuing opportunities" overseas for his clients, but added, "None of them are dying to go over there." Bartelstein: "They prefer for there to be an NBA season. My message to the players (is) that we need to be aggressive in looking for things." Pacers C Roy Hibbert said, "Right now my top option is to stay in the States. But if we don't have a season or we're missing many games, my agent has something set up for me to go over there" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/22). Former NBAer Penny Hardaway said playing overseas during the lockout is "definitely not a good look." Hardaway: "It’s not a good look because it means you’re not caring about what’s going on over here, you’re just gonna go and make money. But hey, that’s the way it works. Every guy has a right to do whatever they want to do" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 7/21). CBSSPORTS.com's Gregg Doyel wrote under the header, "Not Enough Euros In World To Make Stars Go Globe-Trotting" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21).
A number of NBA player agents will meet with NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter Friday to "discuss topics that include decertification" of the union, according to sources cited by Soshnick & Levinson of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Agents Arn Tellem and Mark Bartelstein are expected to attend. Decertification "would prevent the union from collectively bargaining with NBA team owners and allow players to sue the league under antitrust laws for unlawful restraint of trade." As the lockout approached, both the NBA and union said that they "preferred to continue negotiating rather than battle it out in the court system." The meeting "comes on the same day staff members from both the union and the league are scheduled to negotiate" in N.Y. (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 7/22).
FOLLOW THE LEADER: SI's Ian Thomsen writes the prospects for a new NBA CBA "may hinge on the respect commanded on both sides of the table" by Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher, who "sounds both sober and upbeat" about the negotiations. While discussing the CBA, Fisher "looks as if he has lost Game 1 of a playoff series he remains confident of winning." Traditionally, Hunter "has served as the point man in negotiations" with NBA Commissioner David Stern, "while the president has been a liaison to the players." But Fisher "has worked hard to extend the reach of his office," and NBPA sources contend that "no player leader has had a better, more nuanced grasp of the CBA or been better able to articulate a vision for the union." Fisher hopes to convince both the owners and players "to pursue the middle ground." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said, "He's a strong advocate for all of the players in the league and he's well-versed in all of the issues. He has set the tone for a very professional atmosphere." Since succeeding Antonio Davis as NBPA President, Fisher "has immersed himself in the fine print of the deal while seeking to increase the role of player president." He launched a "negotiating session at All-Star weekend in Los Angeles with a presentation about the players' role in growing the league." Thomsen writes, "At this stage the best hope of saving the season depends on continuing a dialogue that leads to a shared understanding. This is where Fisher's strengths come into play" (SI, 7/25 issue).