SBD/October 26, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 118: NBA, Union Reconvene In NY; Owners Relax Ultimatum

Six days after CBA negotiations "broke off in a nasty public dispute NBA owners and players will return to the bargaining table" today, according to sources cited by Mitch Lawrence of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. League sources said that the two sides will meet "in a midtown Manhattan hotel." The resumption of talks "is the reason the league held off on the cancellation of at least two more weeks of the regular season" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/26). In N.Y., Marc Berman reports today's meeting "will be small groups from each side." Sources said that the owners have "relaxed on their demand that negotiations only take place with preconditions that the union accept the 50-50 revenue split." Meanwhile, sources also said that the NLRB is "expected to make a decision about the players association’s July complaint regarding unfair bargaining practices by the owners within two weeks" (N.Y. POST, 10/26). Meanwhile, NBA Senior VP/Marketing Communications Mike Bass said NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter made "several misstatements" during his Monday appearance on ESPN.com's "The B.S. Report." Hunter on Monday indicated that Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban last week "proposed what he called a 'game changer' -- a plan to replace the salary cap with a heavy tax for teams that spent to a certain level." But Bass said yesterday, "On behalf of the league, Mark Cuban proposed adding a new salary cap exception, not eliminating the salary cap. It was the union that, in response, proposed eliminating the salary cap, a proposal that was even worse for the NBA than the union's prior proposals." One source said that Cuban's "actual proposal was much different than what Hunter suggested," and the source indicated that he "was surprised the union ignored it given that it would have met much of what players were seeking" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/26). ESPN DALLAS' Tim MacMahon wrote, "The NBA and its players association can't even agree on what Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban proposed during a meeting between owners and players last week" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 10/25).

THE LITTLE GUYS: ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst wrote under the header, "How 'Small Market' Owners Took Control." Windhorst noted NBA Commissioner David Stern before training camp in '06 "received an uncomfortable letter" from eight owners who had "signed a petition that demanded Stern address the small market/big market financial disparity they felt was a serious and growing problem." The "authors of the letter" included current owners Paul Allen (Trail Blazers), Herb Simon (Pacers), Michael Heisley (Grizzlies), Glen Taylor (T'Wolves) and Herb Kohl (Bucks). Windhorst: "In essence, that letter is the root of the current lockout. And, it is turning out, perhaps a core reason the owners can’t make a deal with the players after more than two years of negotiations." League sources have said that the "sticking points with the players’ union do not solely break down market-size lines and that there’s unity among the owners on the need to win significant economic concessions from the players." But there "seems to be a difference between unity and harmony." One NBA source said, "That Lakers' TV deal scared the hell out of everybody. Everyone thought there is no way to compete with that. Then everyone started thinking that it wasn’t fair that they didn’t have to share it with the teams they’re playing against." Windhorst noted the "faction of owners" who signed the '06 letter has "turned into a majority in 2011." The owners "are furious that the players are getting paid so much," and they are "furious that the NBA's current revenue sharing ($60 million a year) is worth less than half of a league like the NHL ($137 million)." Windhorst: "And they are trying to take advantage of throwing their new weight around. ... At the heart of this labor dispute is money, of course. But there’s that other classic element at play as well: power. And who has it among the ownership ranks is changing" (ESPN.com, 10/25).

Kohl has quietly been lobbying for better
revenue-sharing system in the NBA
MORE ON REVENUE: In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted Kohl has "quietly lobbied for a better revenue-sharing plan for years and will sometimes tell reporters that he loses money every season." But the team "has never opened its books." Walker wrote for Kohl, signing the '06 letter to Stern is "about as vocal as he is willing to get." Walker: "For as strong as Kohl felt in 2006, he is apparently not part of the NBA lockout talks" (JSONLINE.com, 10/25). In Boston, Steve Bulpett notes there are owners "in major cities who do not have a problem at all sharing revenues, knowing that those in larger metropolitan areas can do far better with local television and radio rights." But "some of those same people are bothered by teams that don’t spend much and then fail to reinvest what they receive from the luxury tax payout." One source said, “If they’re not trying to grow the game, then they’re just taking the money" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/26).

SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE: ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote the owners are "just along for the ride," and there is "nothing fair about awarding 50 percent of BRI to the people who amount to 100 percent of the reason there's any BRI in the first place." O'Connor: "People pay to watch world-class athletes do world-class things. So no, NBA players shouldn't settle for the 50-50 split." Hunter said yesterday, "What I'm always telling the players is that nobody comes to see an owner bounce or shoot a basketball. ... These are the best 450 players on the globe, and they're not replaceable. Without them, there is no game. So the players should always get more than a 50-50 split, even if it's only by 2 or 3 percent." Former MLBPA Exec Dir Marvin Miller said of the union making the NBA's requested concessions, "It's more than a compromise; it's a folding" (ESPNNY.com, 10/25). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith wrote the players have "hurt themselves, due to their inability to gauge the sensitivities of the viewing public." Smith: "It's too late now. The public is utterly disgusted. And guess who they're blaming? The players. ... The reality of a legitimate 'win' is no longer an option. The players have already lost in that department." The players should "yield," on the "condition that the owners yield to a 52-48 split or a 51-49 split, and possibly getting a portion of the luxury tax penalties due to be paid back to the league by penalized owners" (ESPNLA.com, 10/25).

LET'S MAKE A DEAL: In San Antonio, Mike Monroe noted rumors "have surfaced that there have been informal conversations since the finger-pointing news conferences that followed Thursday’s sudden end to negotiations that had been led for three days" by Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Dir George Cohen. Spurs F Matt Bonner said, "If there is a deal to be made, let's make it. What the hell is the problem?" Bonner added, "If you’re expecting the players to collapse, I don’t see that as probable at all. Social media has helped us stick together and stay on the same page. There’s other leagues. A lot of guys will play elsewhere. They should not expect the guys to cave, and that’s what scares me the most. Plus, everyone got their escrow check back. That helps us, too" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 10/25).

PHOENIX RISING: FOXSPORTS.com's Jason Whitlock writes, "Rather than accept and deal with their culpability for its financial mess and look within for solutions -- as its conservative philosophy dictates -- NBA ownership has simply proposed sticking its hands in the players' pockets for a seven-percent/$400-million kickback/bailout." Whitlock is "equally shocked" the NBPA "hasn't called the owners out for their blatant hypocrisy." Whitlock spoke with Suns G Steve Nash, a man who "desperately needs to get involved in this labor dispute before irreparable damage is done to a league that is on the cusp of a transcendent renaissance." Nash said, "I agree with you. I'm not so one-sided that I don't think there are ills within (the NBA business) model. But the majority of the things preventing this model from working are the owners policing themselves and not signing as many bad (player) contracts." Whitlock also spoke with Suns F Grant Hill, who said, "I would hope that the owners would be willing to do as much as they're asking the players. I would hope that we would all look within first for any solutions." Whitlock writes Nash and Hill's "voices need to be heard." The NBA's "elite, credible players have been too silent in explaining to the public the shakedown NBA ownership is attempting." Nash said, "There could be some truth to that. It's a tough situation. There are people in the players union who are very committed, capable people in our union have taken the reins. I didn't foresee that I would be needed. ... Maybe it was shortsighted for me not to get more involved." Hill said, "Yes, in hindsight maybe it probably was a mistake (to be uninvolved). ... I think at this point every player wishes he was at the negotiating table" (FOXSPORTS.com, 10/26).

IS THERE TIME FOR A SEASON? In N.Y., Howard Beck writes the NBA schedule, "at least as it was presented in July, is already worthless." Sources said that "whenever the lockout is resolved, the NBA will build a new schedule from scratch, using all arena dates that are still reserved." Beck: "Thus, the decision to formally announce cancellations is an academic exercise, and perhaps a bit of political theater." Whatever arena dates the NBA "retains could eventually be used to construct a new schedule." But it will "look drastically different from what is on the books now, and probably without the preferred balance of games between the two conferences" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26). USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt writes for the NBA "to avoid missing its smorgasbord of enticing Christmas Day matchups, a deal would need to be in place by about Nov. 25." If the season "begins Dec. 1 and each team plays 16 games a month through April, an 80-game schedule is possible." If the season "started Jan. 1, a 64-game schedule is within reach" (USA TODAY, 10/26). The BOSTON HERALD's Bulpett notes it is "likely the regular season will stretch beyond its scheduled April 18 terminus" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/26).

WORLD TOUR: Sources reported that 18 NBA players "will embark on a six-game, two-week, four-continent tour that begins Sunday in San Juan, Puerto Rico." ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported terms and logistics of the World All-Star Classic "are now finalized and an official announcement will be made by the tour's organizers" today. Sources said that Lakers F Kobe Bryant, Magic C Dwight Howard, Heat G Dwyane Wade and Thunder F Kevin Durant "will headline the roster." The next two games will be on Nov. 1 and 3 at the O2 Arena in London. Game 4 "will be played Nov. 6 in Macau in the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Hotel, and the tour will close in Melbourne, Australia with games at Rod Laver Arena on Nov. 8 and 9." Each player "will receive a salary, ranging from six figures to" $1M and "many of the proceeds will go towards charity." Atlanta businessman Calvin Darden "put the tour together" (ESPN.com, 10/25).
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