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Negotiations to end the NBA lockout "collapsed again Thursday night, in spectacular fashion, with more acrimony, mistrust and fiery rhetoric, and despite the involvement of a federal mediator," according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. The talks ended at "about 7 p.m., after nearly 30 hours spent over three days at a Midtown Manhattan hotel." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said, "Ultimately we were unable to bridge the gap that separates the two parties." No additional meetings are scheduled, and Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Dir George Cohen "has effectively withdrawn from the process." The parties had "made progress on a number of smaller items, like the midlevel exception, adjustments to the rookie-scale system and a so-called amnesty provision that would allow teams to waive players to clear salary-cap room." Silver said that he "began the day feeling optimistic," and officials on the players' side also "felt that progress was possible when the talks reconvened" Thursday afternoon following an NBA BOG meeting. But union officials suggested that "something changed during that owners meeting." NBPA officials said that Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen "was a surprise [participant] at the labor talks, and had been sent to deliver the owners’ message -- that they would move no further." Union outside counsel and lead negotiator Jeffrey Kessler, a partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf, said, “This meeting was hijacked. Something happened in that board of governors meeting. We were making progress.” Kessler said Allen was sent to convey the owners' position, “and that view was, ‘Our way or the highway.’ That’s what we were told. We were shocked" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/21).
WHAT WENT WRONG? USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt reports the players "made a slight move, off 53% to 52%, but it was not what the owners wanted." NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said that Silver "told them the owners won't go past 50%-50%." Differing accounts of Thursday's meeting "illustrate how far apart the sides remain." The league said that the union "ended talks, and the union blamed the league." Zillgitt notes it is "difficult to see them finding common ground right now on a new collective bargaining agreement." Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher "told news reporters they were 'lied to' by" Silver and Spurs Owner Peter Holt. Hunter "singled out owners he believes are most hawkish in seeking a CBA with significant changes," and named Holt, Allen, the Wizards' Ted Leonsis and the Cavaliers' Dan Gilbert. Hunter said, "There are owners in the room who want the system that they're demanding, and there are not enough owners in the room with a contrary position who can carry the day. … There's a group of owners, the small markets in particular, that were dug in, and I think they are carrying the day." Holt said, "Right now … it could be tougher than it has been in the past to get back together" (USA TODAY, 10/21). In Boston, Gary Washburn notes both sides "walked away jaded, accusing the other of making unreasonable demands." Hunter indicated that Holt "told the NBPA that a 50-50 split was a 'take it or leave it' deal." Silver said, "We felt we made several significant compromises, proposed compromises to get a deal done. But we have certain core beliefs that which we think are absolutely necessary to achieve before we continue to play NBA basketball." Hunter said that the players "proposed a 53-50 sliding scale that would guarantee the players at least a 50 percent share regardless of the league’s economic state, and 53 percent if revenue streams flourish." Hunter and Holt said that the "owners refused," and "responded with the 'take it or leave it' offer" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/21).
NBPA Exec Dir says he was rebuffed by Holt (r)
when he tried to discuss non-revenue topics
DOING THE DIRTY WORK: Kessler indicated that Allen at the BOG meeting "rallied his troops to take a harder stance on what the owners feel is a necessary, crucial overhaul to the system" (PHILLY.com, 10/20). The BOSTON HERALD's Bulpett added, "Some group in that Board of Governors made the decision that they are going to blow us off and blow off the fans" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/21). In Chicago, K.C. Johnson notes Hunter also "singled out ... Allen in this regard" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/21). Hunter said, "When Paul Allen came into the room, [the owners] alluded to Paul and said that Paul was there because the owners were of the position that they had given up too much in the negotiations and he was there to reaffirm their position." Hunter said that he "made a speech to Allen, essentially asking him if the owners would table the BRI talk and try to finish tackling the system issues separately." Hunter said, "Paul didn't respond. He was just in the room" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/21). CBSSPORTS.com's Ben Golliver writes the NBA lockout "gained its first true villain when Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett allegedly helped hijack labor talks a week or so ago," but everything "said about Garnett goes double, triple, or one hundred fold," for Allen. Golliver writes Allen "doesn't care about accountability and he definitely doesn't care about the notion of a 'fair deal for both sides.' All he cares about, in the end, is pursuing his own self-interest to the max" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/21).
PRESS CONFERENCE FALLOUT: In L.A., Mike Bresnahan writes after Thursday's session, the "body language of the key figures said it all." Fisher "clenched his jaw while talking to reporters, obviously irritated by an abrupt end to the talks." Fisher also "didn't like what the owners said in their news conference, chafing at the insinuation that players dragged their feet." He said, "You guys were lied to earlier. It's that simple." Bresnahan notes even Cohen "seemed to throw up his hands at the chasm separating players and owners, releasing a statement that said in part, 'No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation at this time.'" Holt said, "We've kind of worn each other out." Bresnahan notes it was a "bad day for the NBA and its fans" (L.A. TIMES, 10/21). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence notes things "got very messy shortly after the two sides failed to get anywhere close to a deal." Players "were incensed by how the negotiations were portrayed by Silver" and Holt during the NBA's press conference (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/21). Holt said, "Certainly we don’t want to lose the season. I don’t think the NHL did either [in '04-05] but it ended up happening. There are certain things we feel we must have." In N.Y., Marc Berman writes the "harsh tactics by Silver and Holt stunned the players association since the first two days -- which included 24 hours of talks -- didn’t go badly." Hunter called the owners' 50-50 demand “the poison pill” (N.Y. POST, 10/21).
TURN UP THE HEAT: In Philadelphia, Kate Fagan writes the labor dispute "went from toasty warm to red-hot" on Thursday. Kessler indicated that "very little negotiating actually took place on Thursday." Hunter "gave a play-by-play blow of what he says actually happened" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/21). Fagan noted it is "very possible that [Thursday] -- the rhetoric and anger -- has set this bargaining process back an indefinite length of time and money" (PHILLY.com, 10/20). On Long Island, Alan Hahn notes the "real fireworks involved an alleged attitude the owners brought into Thursday's meeting" following what Silver called a "robust'' NBA BOG meeting in the morning. That meeting "involved heated discussions about improving the revenue-sharing plan" (NEWSDAY, 10/21). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Kevin Clark writes the union held its "most heated press conference of the lockout" after Thursday's session (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/21).
PHONING IT IN: Sources said that Stern was "in constant communication with the owners' side via conference call" despite being at home with the flu (NEWSDAY, 10/21). Before the end of the talks, Silver had announced that Stern "would be available via conference call during the mediation." But Hunter said that he "wasn’t aware Stern could be reached." Hunter added, “Maybe it was easier for them to take this position without him there." He also indicated that the "tone of the day was strange without Stern" (N.Y. POST, 10/21). In Chicago, K.C. Johnson writes it is "no wonder" that Stern stayed home Thursday, as the talks "deteriorated in spectacular fashion" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/21).
IT'S ALL ABOUT TRUST: YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote it was "clear after the latest impasse that the level of trust between the two sides has deteriorated." The talks "once again broke down on the proposed revenue split." Union officials "think the league’s hard-line owners" are making it "difficult for the two sides to reach a compromise." Despite the discord, both sides "admitted making some progress on minor issues" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/20). In N.Y., Howie Kussoy reports the players "now describe more acrimony and distrust than at any other point during the process." Wizards F and NBPA VP Maurice Evans said, "I hate to use the expression the gloves are off, but for all intents and purposes, the gloves are off." He added, "The press conference [Silver and Holt] had wasn’t very accurate. We were making progress, and for that to suddenly end, that just speaks volumes." Hornets G Chris Paul: "I don't know where we go from here" (N.Y. POST, 10/21). Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki said, "I'm hopeful but I don't know if that's going to be enough" (DALLASNEWS.com, 10/20).
Fisher was upset by last night's NBA press
conference after labor talks broke down
GENERAL DISGUST: CBSSPORTS.com's Berger writes the two sides "deserve each other." Berger: "What happened Thursday was irresponsible and gutless -- which shouldn't come as a surprise in sports, where the irresponsible and gutless go to make their millions (or billions) and play us for fools. ... I'm mad at everybody right now, but do you know who I'm angrier at? The owners. Why? Because I believe Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher when they say it was an ultimatum from the owners that shattered these talks Thursday night." There are "hard-liners among the owners who refuse to give the players a dime more than 50 percent, and some harder-liners who were reluctant to go even that far." The NBA has "not only been unable to keep hard-line owners from influencing the negotiations, they couldn't even keep them out of the room Thursday" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/21).
SPORTS GUY SAYS: GRANTLAND.com's Bill Simmons wrote he has had Clippers season-tickets since moving to L.A. in '03 and recently added NHL Kings season tickets. Simmons: "Next June, I will be eliminating one of them. ... The Kings have either seven, eight or nine months to win me over. And right now, their odds are better than I thought." Simmons wrote he bought Kings tickets "because I like hockey," but he added he "never would have bought Kings tickets without a lockout." Simmons: "That's the part these NBA numbskulls are missing. By disappearing, you're not just canceling a few weeks or a few months. You're crippling yourself competitively. ... Forget about solving this particular lockout. Where is this league going? What does it want to accomplish?" More Simmons: "Why won't Stern say when he's leaving? What's his succession plan? Is Adam Silver taking over? And if he is, why isn't he being more empowered right now? From the players' side, who takes over when Billy Hunter retired five years ago? I mean, five years from now? Who will be shaping the league????" Nobody "knows these answers, and if there's anything scarier about this whole fiasco, I haven't found it." The NBA is a league "that pretends to be 'reinventing' itself when, really, it hasn't done any real innovation other than how it's embraced the digital world and its business relationships in Europe and China." Simmons: "You know how you create real change? You seek opinions from outside parties. ... Where's the big-picture leadership here?" If there is "an irony here, it's that Gary Bettman ... has a chance to take advantage of David Stern's mistakes." The door has "swung wide-open for the Kings," and Simmons wrote he is "thinking, Maybe I'm not gonna miss basketball as much as I thought. Life moves on. It always does" (GRANTLAND.com, 10/19).
NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver Thursday called HBO's Bryant Gumbel's "racially tinged comments" about Commissioner David Stern "outrageous," according to Marc Berman of the N.Y. POST. Silver said while entering a mediation session said, "I can’t speak for David, but a personal comment is: I thought it was outrageous" (NYPOST.com, 10/20). In DC, Deron Snyder notes Gumbel in his comments "used slave imagery, which immediately sent his otherwise solid arguments to the discount bin" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/21). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote, "Gumbel's comments that Stern is a plantation owner is not insulting to Stern. It's just ignorant" (STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/20). N.Y. Daily News reporter John Harper said, "You can call Stern a lot of things -- arrogant, condescending -- but that's taking to a whole new level. You're basically calling him a racist. I think that's over the top.” N.Y. Daily News reporter Ralph Vacchiano: “We all have written or said things that have been a little strong or we knew that they would grab attention. But there is a line and you've got to be careful with that. That was a step way over the line” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet New York, 10/20). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes, "Sorry, can’t fall for such obvious attention-bait. Gumbel knows better about both American history and the NBA to make such a tired and pathetic analogy, one more liable to cause nausea than outrage" (N.Y. POST, 10/21).
GOING ON TOUR: Knicks F Carmelo Anthony on Thursday confirmed a report that he Knicks F Amar'e Stoudemire and "several other stars are finalizing plans for a two-week exhibition tour." The report indicated that games "would be played from Oct. 30 to Nov. 9 in Puerto Rico, London, Macau and Australia." Anthony said, "Right now, I think it's just getting a couple more guys to commit to it. Get the paperwork done. Once the paperwork's done and everybody signed on, I guess we'll be doing the world tour." Anthony also said that he "wants to bring" an exhibition game "to the New York area if the lockout isn't over by next month." He said, "I am working on a game here in New York City" (NEWSDAY, 10/21). Anthony said that he "would like to house the All-Star charity event at an 18,000-seat arena, and The Meadowlands' Izod Center is being considered" (N.Y. POST, 10/21). ESPN’s J.A. Adande said the idea of a world tour "actually diminishes their case" in CBA negotiations. Adande: "The more you watch these games, no matter how many superstars are on the court, you realize it’s not NBA basketball. What’s missing are the stakes. What’s missing is competition for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. So it actually hurts their case because it reminds you of what they’re not getting.” But ESPN’s Bomani Jones said, “The NFL is the only league where you can throw anybody in a uniform and then people will watch it. That’s not the case with the NBA. You put bad players with stakes, people still aren’t going to watch this” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/20). Golf Channel’s Erik Kuselias discussed how the NBA should react to a tour by the star players and said, “Publicly I would say, ‘Guys, go for it, good luck to you. Hey, you’re growing the game of basketball.’ Privately, I would look at anybody that has a TV deal or a network or a highlight package and say, ‘Any one of you guys cover this, you’re going to be dead to me'" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 10/21).
NEWS & NOTES: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Thursday that his "effort to build a sports and entertainment complex downtown will move forward despite" the breakdown of NBA labor talks (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/21). Meanwhile, in Portland, Mike Tokito notes a "prolonged lockout and the loss of home Trail Blazers games could put a serious dent in the fund the city uses to pay off debts on its major sports facilities, as well as to maintain and upgrade them." Blazers games "provide much of the revenue for the city's spectator fund -- a self-sustaining account that the city started so it would not have to dip into the general fund to pay bills for its sports facilities." Last year, the spectator fund "took in $3,657,538." Amy Ruiz, spokesperson for Portland Mayor Sam Adams, said that Adams is "interested in seeing what happens in Memphis, where the city council passed a resolution this week to explore all options, including suing the NBA, to get money back that the city loses because of the lockout" (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/21).
The NFL shook up the ranks of its committees with moves the league said had been anticipated but were put on hold until the labor strife was settled. Perhaps the biggest change is that Texans Owner Robert McNair will take over as Chair of the finance committee from Saints Owner Tom Benson. Benson was viewed as a voice for the middle-market teams while in that position, while McNair is more aligned with larger markets. However, the league expects the divide between large- and small-market teams to narrow during the 10 years of the new CBA deal. Chargers Owner Dean Spanos is taking over from Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver as Chair of the business venture committee. Weaver will assume McNair's chairmanship of the investment committee. Steelers President Art Rooney II is taking over as Chair of the stadium committee from Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson. Meanwhile, Chiefs Chair & CEO Clark Hunt is taking over for 49ers co-Owner John York as head of the int'l committee. Giants co-Owner John Mara is the new head of the labor committee, taking over for Richardson and Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, though the responsibilities of the committee will obviously be greatly reduced from the past. The league is also creating a new health and medical issues committee to be chaired by York. Other members of that committee will include Mara, Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, Packers President Mark Murphy and Falcons President & CEO Rich McKay. Patriots Owner Robert Kraft will remain Chair of the broadcast committee, and McKay head of competition (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).
TESTS BEGIN MONDAY: On Long Island, Bob Glauber reports NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has “written a letter to two members of Congress outlining the league's plan to begin collecting blood specimens as soon as Monday in order to begin testing all players for HGH.” The letter was sent Wednesday to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and “reiterated a six-point plan that Goodell said both sides had agreed to last Friday.” Goodell in the letter said that the league “would begin collecting blood samples as soon as Monday, but that testing wouldn't begin until details of the program could be worked out with players” (NEWSDAY, 10/21). Goodell also wrote that a “mutually acceptable third party would meet with WADA, the world anti-doping agency, and USADA to review the science underlying the HGH tests” (AP, 10/20).
IndyCar amended its rule book in April regarding the size of the field for races, changing a rule that had stipulated that the starting grid should be no more than 28 cars. The field for the Izod IndyCar Series World Championships in Las Vegas last Sunday was 34 cars, which has been widely cited as a possible factor in the crash that killed Dan Wheldon. The Izod IndyCar Series rule book was amended so that IndyCar "in its discretion shall determine the size and composition of the starting field for each race." Prior to the rule change, only six tracks could have fields larger than 28, and LVMS was not one of those six. IndyCar updates its bulletins throughout the year and considers factors such as the amount of pit space and garage space for determining the size of the field. It is unclear how safety factors into decisions about the size of the field at races. IndyCar declined to comment on specific reasons for the field being set at 34 in Las Vegas. An IndyCar spokesperson issued a statement saying, “The safety of our drivers, their crews, IndyCar staff, racetrack staff and spectators is always our paramount concern. As part of our standard safety protocol, a full investigation has been launched by IndyCar, with assistance from individual members of various motorsports bodies. We hope to have preliminary findings to report within the next several weeks. In the meantime, it would be inappropriate to comment further until the investigative team has had the opportunity to conclude its work.”
The PGA Tour “took its largest step into the Latin American market on Thursday with the announcement of a new tour,” according to Sean Martin of GOLFWEEK. The new circuit, meant to “spur growth in the region, also will provide players a new way to qualify for the Nationwide Tour.” PGA Tour Latinoamérica will be “an 11-event circuit that runs from September to December 2012 with events in Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru.” A complete schedule is “expected to be released soon.” The Tour said that it “could conduct up to 14 events in 2013.” The PGA Tour also is “searching for an umbrella sponsor for the circuit, similar to the sponsorship of the Nationwide Tour.” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement said, “We see this as an opportunity to help in the further development of elite players across the region.” Golfer Jhonattan Vegas, who is from Venezuela, said, “That’s the best thing that can happen for Latin American golf. We have lots of phenomenal players that need the opportunity.” Latin America’s current tour, the Tour de las Americas, will “play a series of events early next year that will help establish priority rankings for the new tour.” After those events, the Tour de las America’s staff and schedule “will be integrated into the new structure of PGA Tour Latinoamérica.” Tour de las Americas Commissioner Henrique Lavie “will become the new tour’s executive director.” PGA Tour VP Jack Warfield has been named PGA Tour Latinoamérica COO. Martin noted an “undetermined number of Nationwide Tour cards will be offered to PGA Tour Latinoamérica’s top performers.” PGA Tour Latinoamérica is the PGA Tour’s “first new circuit since 1990, when the Ben Hogan Tour (known today as the Nationwide Tour) was formed” (GOLFWEEK.com, 10/20). Author John Feinstein said, "My question is, are we leading eventually to some kind of a world tour, where there’s one commissioner and one set of rules, which I think would be a good thing for golf” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 10/21).