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NBA Commissioner David Stern, NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter and their top lieutenants "have agreed to resume collective bargaining discussions," according to sources cited by Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com. The two sides will be "back at the bargaining table Monday," and the decision to meet face-to-face "is one of the first possible signs of progress after four weeks of stagnancy" since labor talks broke down hours before NBA owners instituted a lockout on July 1. Monday's meeting is "expected to include" NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver, NBPA President Derek Fisher and Spurs Owner and Labor Relations Committee Chair Peter Holt, as well as Stern and Hunter. The meeting comes after a number of prominent players last Friday "met with Hunter and urged him to consider fast-tracking a move toward decertification." But Hunter "prefers to await a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board on an unfair bargaining practices complaint the union filed earlier this year" (ESPN.com, 7/27). Hunter after the last talks indicated that perhaps the sides "could start with something besides the finances when talks resumed, since they could never get past that hurdle and onto other things previously" (AP, 7/27).
BABY STEPS: CBSSPORTS.com's Ben Golliver wrote talking "is an important first step," but "compromising, ultimately, is what will prevent an extended work stoppage from disrupting, or potentially cancelling, the 2011-2012 NBA season" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/27). In N.Y, Mitch Lawrence writes, "At this stage, any kind of progress will be welcome. Even an agreement on the shape of the bargaining table to be used in negotiations." Lawrence adds the owners "probably can't wait to get to Nov. 15," when players are scheduled to begin receiving their paychecks. Owners "figure once the players' checks stop, the splintering in their ranks will start." The players "will start going their own way, leading to a settlement" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/28). ESPN.com's Roy Johnson writes, "The primary reason the dispute will not be easily or quickly resolved -- and why this negotiation in no way resembles the NFL's lockout -- is this: While Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith were essentially haggling over how to slice their league's well-publicized $9 billion pie, Stern and Hunter can't even agree on the pie" (ESPN.com, 7/28).
Hunter feels he will be judged based upon how
he handles NBA lockout
NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING: In Orlando, Shannon Owens wrote, "If you're like me, then maybe you've noticed the leaders in the labor negotiations have been eerily quiet." Owens: "Even more peculiar is how silent the NBA stars have been when it comes to fighting against hard salary caps in the 2011 NBA lockout. Stars like Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning were on the front lines for players during the 1998-99 lockout. But that clearly hasn't been the case this time around" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 7/27).
The Patriots yesterday became the “first team to vote unanimously to recertify” the player’s union, according to Ron Borges of the BOSTON HERALD. NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith “met for nearly two hours in Foxboro with Patriots veterans during their lunchbreak yesterday, explaining the deal points in the settlement of the Brady v. NFL case as well as the significance of a vote to recertify.” Once a “majority of teams vote to recertify, Smith and the union’s executive committee can begin negotiating health and safety issues, workplace rules and the thorny issue of HGH testing raised by commissioner Roger Goodell.” Meanwhile, Smith yesterday said the owners “demonstrated a great level of commitment collectively to getting this deal done over the past few months.” Smith: “From John Mara to Jerry Richardson, Jerry Jones and, of course, Bob Kraft, they understood why doing a fair deal is important. What I’m proudest of is that while many people questioned whether or not the men of the NFL would have the resolve to stick together and to stand up for what is important to them, can they still question that now?” (BOSTON HERALD, 7/28). Once the NFLPA is recertified, “and all indications are that is a formality, owners and players will negotiate areas that only a union can bargain in a CBA, including drug testing, player discipline and disability and pension programs.” The agreement between the two sides “requires that those issues be resolved and a full CBA done by Aug. 4” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 7/27).
EXHAUSTING, BUT WORTH IT: In Ft. Worth, Hill & Williams write Jones “played a significant role in the negotiations and it clearly took a toll on him as he became "emotional when talking about what it meant [to] get a deal and the chance the league took in losing fans by threatening the season.” Jones: “We took this thing into the perfect storm and got the boat back home to get it done right. I’m real proud of the players and I’m real proud of the negotiation. At the end of the day, for our fans, for the league to have the financial strength and interest we have, the ability of a 10-year deal to negotiate our rights fees, to provide the juice that puts the game on, all of those things were enhanced” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/28). Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson described the CBA negotiations as "very exhausting," but the owners were "as prepared as possible on all fronts." Richardson: "One of the things we hoped we would be able to accomplish would be to achieve a labor agreement that would serve the league and our players and fans for long-term, and we were able to do that without missing any regular-season games. ... It was just really not easy but the truth of the matter, at the end of the day the real credit goes to the Commissioner and Mr. Smith because they had to agree on the final details.” He added games would have been missed "if we hadn’t been able to come to a common agreement." Richardson: "Fortunately, at the end of the day, both sides were willing to compromise and both sides realized that could really be a kick in the pants, so to speak" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 7/28).
UNSUNG HERO: SI's Peter King writes NFL Senior VP & Treasurer Joe Siclare “deserves his own football card for what he did in May, when the negotiating momentum halted.” Without seeing “detailed, audited financial statements, the players were chafing at exempting $1 billion from the revenue pool,” and court-appointed mediator Judge Arthur Boylan told league officials they had to “come up with some new idea.” Siclare met with NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash and “suggested they go back and study a common tactic in many businesses: Why not give the workers a larger percentage of the income that requires no owner funding and let ownership keep a larger cut of the income derived from its investments?” King writes it was the “breakthrough the talks needed.” Siclare: “It wasn’t like inventing cold fusion in the sink. It’s just common sense” (SI, 8/1 issue). Meanwhile, Richardson said the “real unsung heroes are the people in the league office and the legal firms that you never hear about.” The CBA negotiations “would start early in the morning and go late into the night, and it was a brutal process” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 7/28).
SOME HURT FEELINGS REMAIN: ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski writes something about Goodell and the “way he does business has caused a handful of players to declare a verbal jihad.” Players such as Steelers LB James Harrison “feel betrayed.” There is a “divide between some players and Goodell,” though the “width and length of that divide is less defined.” Wojciechowski: “To think that Goodell is universally disliked by NFL players is silly. He isn’t. He also isn’t universally beloved, but who cares? … If the lockout proved anything, it’s that Goodell and the players don’t have to be pals to coexist” (ESPN.com, 7/28).
OWNERS GOT WHAT THEY WANTED: ESPN.com’s Tim Keown wrote the owners “won” the negotiations by “doling out carefully measured slices of compromise and the players taking what they could get.” Keown: “If the lockout is over, the owners won. They wouldn’t have planned [for] years for this lockout and signed a deal after four months if it didn’t benefit them. Trust us on this one. They had to win. There was no other possibility.” The players “did as well as could be expected,” and they “got out with their pride and dignity intact” (ESPN.com, 7/27).
RETURNED WAGES: BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Michael Sillup cited a document as saying that the NFL “told its office personnel that it would repay the wages staffers lost during cutbacks” due to the lockout (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 7/26).
Travis Pastrana will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at this Saturday's Kroger 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway, and his success could generate new fans and money for NASCAR, which has “a fan base that has been graying,” according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. A sponsorship “downturn in the Sprint Cup Series has coincided with a dip in the 18-34 demographic so highly coveted by marketers, and it has driven NASCAR to launch social media campaigns targeted at young adults.” GMR Marketing Exec VP/Sports Marketing Mike Boykin indicated that Pastrana’s debut “should appeal to flat-billed-cap-wearing kids enamored with a daredevil whose stunts resulted in a documentary chronicling countless injuries and surgeries.” Ryan notes Pastrana has more than 175,000 Twitter followers and “nearly 3 million fans on Facebook.” By comparison, Jimmie Johnson has 534,000 Facebook fans and Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s “most popular driver, has 1 million.” But ESPN VP/Motorsports Rich Feinberg “cautions personality might not be as important as performance in building a bridge between the divergent fan bases.” Ryan notes ESPN “is heavily cross-promoting the ‘Pastranathon’” this weekend -- with Pastrana participating in the X Games today and Friday before flying to Indianapolis for the NASCAR race and then flying back to L.A. for X Games competition Sunday. Highlights of Pastrana during the NASCAR race “will be shown Saturday on the X Games cablecast and on video boards at the event” in L.A. (USA TODAY, 7/28).
WORTHY INITATIVE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Tripp Mickle notes Michael Waltrip Racing teamed with Pastrana to “give the action sports star equity in its Nationwide Series team, which was renamed Pastrana Waltrip Racing last fall.” MWR Exec VP/Business Development Ty Norris said, “It’s not just a NASCAR initiative, or a Michael Waltrip Racing initiative. This is a youth initiative. The youth market is something so important to us going forward, and what we see in Travis is not only a guy with incredible passion and desire to be a champion … but one who also has a massive following” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/25 issue). In Delaware, Mike Finney writes it would be “quite a coup for NASCAR should Pastrana make the transition to racing stock cars.” Team Owner Michael Waltrip said, "Travis has built an enormous and unique following all over the world. This is an opportunity to showcase our sport to a new generation of young fans. We're also looking for that next big star” (Wilmington NEWS JOURNAL, 7/28).