SBD/November 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The NBPA Exec Committee met for two hours last night to examine the league's latest proposal "before deciding whether to present it to all 400-some players for ratification" today, according to Ric Bucher of ESPN.com. The committee will "first meet with player reps" this morning at 9:00am ET. Sources said that one of the "new wrinkles that the committee is finding difficult to accept," is an "unlimited escrow system." The escrow system "would assure that owners would be reimbursed for however much they exceed the negotiated amount of basketball-related income allowed to be spent on player salaries" (ESPN.com, 11/14). In N.Y., Marc Berman cites union sources as saying that NBPA officials during this morning's meeting will try to convince player reps to make revisions to NBA Commissioner David Stern’s "supposed final 'revised' 50-50 offer and send a counter-proposal back to the commissioner." Union sources said last night that they "seriously doubt the players will vote to accept Stern’s 'revised' proposal as is, because the salary-cap system suppresses the free-agent market for the middle class" (N.Y. POST, 11/14). Berman reported union officials and the Exec Committee want to reject the proposal but will leave the decision "up to the players" (N.Y. POST, 11/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski cites league sources as saying that the players "had yet to hear of several 'B-list' issues that could eventually doom the passage of a vote on both sides of the labor impasse." Sources said that one of the "most prominent issues that has been raised in talks includes the NBA’s desire to cut into the players’ share of the revenue split should owners decide to contract teams over the proposed 10-year deal." Sources added that the "possible elimination of two teams would cause the BRI to be adjusted with a smaller percentage for the players." The NBA "also wants to be able to contract teams without consulting the union." But there is a "growing belief that Stern doesn’t have the ownership support to pass the very proposal he’s been pushing all weekend, and that owners would ultimately kill this deal with the list of non-negotiable B-list issues the players would oppose." Wojnarowski notes it is "hard to remember a more tenacious political campaign from Stern to sell an agenda" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/14).
ON DECK: NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said that his "intention was to have the player representatives vote on a revised version of the NBA's latest proposal before moving forward." He said, "We will vote on the NBA's proposal" (SI.com, 11/13). In N.Y., Howard Beck wrote the "question now is: Has the end game finally arrived?" Numerous agents, players and union officials "contend that Stern is bluffing, that it is too soon to end negotiations." Players via interviews and Twitter messages "began weighing in Friday, nearly all of them expressing disdain for the NBA’s current offer, and the threat that came with it." Agents, even the "more moderate ones, expect the players to reject the NBA's offer Monday, without putting it to a membership vote" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/12).
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS: In L.A., Mike Bresnahan reports Stern "lambasted player agents in a conference call with reporters Saturday and held a 90-minute 'Twitterview' with players, fans and journalists Sunday, sending some final public thoughts in 140 characters or less." Stern "made some intriguing points, admitting that contraction of teams was discussed by players and owners but dismissed; all NBA executives took pay cuts of unspecified proportion; and players' contracts would become void if decertification occurred (more of a threat than anything)." 76ers C Spencer Hawes asked on Twitter, "Since we have covered all of your alleged losses (and more) why am I not getting ready for a game tonight?" Stern replied, "(We) don't agree; season starts if union agrees to NBA's proposal." Heat G Dwyane Wade asked, "Why are all your 'system solutions' only impacting the PLAYERS?? What have the owners (been) giving up of significance?" Stern answered, "The economics & system favored the players in prior CBA -- Teams lost over 300m last year" (L.A. TIMES, 11/14).
STERN WORDS FOR AGENTS: Stern over the weekend said, "I just think that the players aren't getting the information, the true information from their agents, who are banding together, sort of the coalition of the greedy and the mendacious, to do whatever they can … to make money." The L.A. TIMES' Bresnahan notes the agents "predictably disagreed," but most "were not willing to go on the record." But one agent said, "It the owners get to a point where they are taking a bad attitude, then maybe the only move the players can make is to (decertify) to get them to the table in the right way" (L.A. TIMES, 11/14). Stern also said the agents who are "looking out for themselves rather than their clients are trying to scuttle the deal." He added, "The agents misunderstand it and all it does is delay things. They themselves think that if the players decertify, then the league will change its offer. And that will not happen as a result of decertification. It's a losing strategy for them" (AP, 11/12). Stern said that the agents are pushing NBA players toward decertification as a "bargaining ploy and if executed likely would kill the season." He added, "If the agents insist on playing with fire, my guess is that they would get themselves burned" (N.Y. POST, 11/12). Stern also said, "The agents have come sweeping in with such mischaracterizations that my guys asked me if I'd be available for media. I said, 'Whatever you want.' The agents are busy (saying) this is a terrible deal. No one talks about the deal itself." He added, "This talk about decertification would be one last violent effort by the agents to destroy the season, cause their clients to lose the money for this season and destroy $4 billion in guaranteed contracts that exist. Because if the union doesn't exist, the contracts aren't going to exist" (NBA.com, 11/12).
MESSAGE RECEIVED? SI.com's Sam Amick cited several agents as saying that they "were frustrated by the lack of information coming from the union at such a crucial time, as they were attempting to educate their clients but often doing so with either incomplete or inaccurate information." There were "no widespread updates on the proposal," leaving players and agents to spend "Friday and Saturday scrambling to piecemeal the details of the deal" (SI.com, 11/13). The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Johnson noted the "disparity between players' knowledge within the union is large given what's at stake." One player said, "Communication has been non-existent." An agent said that he has "received proper updates" from the Exec Committee, and Bulls F Kyle Korver said that he "receives regular updates from his agent and a union leader" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/13). In Boston, Steve Bulpett cites an agent as saying, "I’ve spent most of this process thinking that, if they weren’t ready to decertify at the start, they should just sign the damn thing, take your beating and get it over with. But after hearing about this offer, (expletive) them. You have to fight the league on this." Another agent said, "Everyone knew the league was going to pull this crap from the start. So why are the players just realizing now what they’re up against? This has all been badly mishandled." An ownership source said that Stern "may now have the deal-making ability he needs because there are more owners who realize how good a deal they’re getting and would rather not wait to start the meter on a system that allows them to keep far more" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/14).
WEIGHING DECERTIFICATION: In Boston, Gary Washburn notes decertification lawsuits "could take years, and history has shown that unions don’t fare well in them." The players would have to prove that owners "are negotiating in bad faith," but the fact that Stern "rescinded his first 'drop-dead' offer, reworked it, and made another proposal might work to the union’s disadvantage." Former NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham "feels the NBPA should realize it has lost and accept the deal because it is out of viable options." Grantham said, "Can the players stay out one year or two years or three years? Because that’s how long it may take in the courts. The loss of income seems very silly and certainly not logical." He added, "The question that will arise now is, ‘Who is willing to sacrifice their careers?' Because that’s what’s going to be on the line if in fact you miss the season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/14).
Several NBA players this weekend spoke out against the CBA offer currently on the table from the owner. Thunder C and NBPA Exec Committee member Nazr Mohammed on Twitter wrote, "This deal is so bad that it amazes me that the league would bring this to the table after all the concessions we have already made" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/13). Thunder F Kevin Durant said of the proposal, "I know it's not a good one. It's not the one that we want" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/12). Cavaliers F Omri Casspi on Twitter said of decertification, "I know that it won't be good for the nba that the court will make them open the books and we all find out that there's big difference." He also wrote, "It's sounds like we are the bad guys here after we agreed to 50/50 which means 2.8 billion dollars to the owners in the course of 10 years" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/12). Pacers F and player rep Danny Granger said, "I would expect that proposal to be rejected after all the players learn more about the deal. The next step I don't know" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 11/12). Grizzlies G and player rep Mike Conley: "We care about getting this thing right and being able to have a good agreement going forward. I do believe the players are ready (to miss the season). We've known this was coming. We knew we were going to miss games. You just hope enough guys prepared for it. We've had great guys leading the way and giving us direction" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/14). T'Wolves F and player rep Anthony Tolliver: "The NBA has played the P.R. side of this great. I'm on Twitter and I got 10, 15 tweets since yesterday asking me to take the deal." Tolliver said of decertification, "I'm on the fence. I still think we have time to get a deal done. The only thing that would make me swing the other way is the fact that the owners are being unreasonable" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/14). Bobcats G and player rep Matt Carroll: "If this deal gets rejected by the players, I think there's a strong possibility we'll decertify. If we go that way, we have to do it quickly to have a chance to have a season" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/14). Mavericks G and player rep Jason Terry: "We are trying to grow the game of basketball, and under the terms that have been presented to us, the game of basketball for us from a players' perspective financially will not be growing" (L.A. TIMES, 11/12).
IS IT REALLY ALL THAT BAD? In N.Y., Howard Beck wrote although some agents and players believe the league's offer is worse than the last, a "review of the NBA’s previous proposal and the revised offer does not support the claim." In many areas, the league "improved its offer, albeit modestly." But Beck noted, "By any measure, the proposed deal would be a major win for the owners." The players are being "asked to take a $280 million pay cut, with shorter contracts, lower raises and tighter restrictions on the top-spending teams." But league officials "insist that the deal is not nearly as bad as the rumor mill suggests" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/13). Beck today analyzes the current offer, noting "contracts would be shorter" and players "would become free agents sooner." Beck added, "Making trades would be simpler. The gap between rich and poor teams might be smaller. There might be fewer superteams and more parity, too. ... The goal -- aside from slashing player salaries -- is a more vibrant league with more player movement" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/14). USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt notes the current offer "addresses the league's financial issues and, in the owners' view, gets them closer to competitive balance." Asked if "B-list issues" would prevent a deal, Stern said, "I don't think either side will blow up the season over B-list issues" (USA TODAY, 11/14).
A TALE OF TWO MARKETS: In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote if players accept the "owner-friendly deal," then the "next CBA won't have any new safeguards for the little guy." If a "big-market team makes cap room to get the next Kobe Bryant, who happens to be stuck playing in small-market oblivion and yearns for the bright lights of a major city, there's nothing the small-market team can do if he decides to leave." Lawrence wrote, "For all the talk about hard-line, small-market owners putting it to the players on this issue, it turned out that it was over the money split, not about protecting themselves from losing their No. 1 asset and seeing the value of their franchise bottom out" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/13). In Akron, Jason Lloyd writes the players "have evolved into the Washington Generals," and have been "blown out at the negotiating table by the Globetrotting owners." The owners "are the clear winners in this," and the "truth is, the owners never really negotiated at all." The owners who "weren't part of the old collective-bargaining agreement were determined to wrestle back control of their league -- much to the anger of players" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 11/14). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman wrote when the "smoke clears, it is going to become evident that the schism between big- and small-market ownership is as severe as at any point for the league" (SUN-SENTINEL.com 11/13). In San Antonio, Buck Harvey wrote Spurs Owner and NBA Labor Relations Committee Chair Peter Holt has "been a facilitator, trying to keep his peers in line" during the negotiations. He is "doing what Jerry Colangelo once did for Stern, and Stern likely chose Holt because he wanted the perception Holt provided." Harvey: "Stern needed such a partner. Whereas he once was a one-man consensus, Stern now faces more than a dozen new owners, many of whom have wanted an even more radical economic model" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 11/12).
WORTH NOTING: In Orlando, Josh Robbins reports Magic C Dwight Howard "lured about 8,000 basketball-starved fans into UCF Arena for a glorified exhibition and made them cheer pro hoops again." Yesterday "might be remembered for the way the crowd responded at a difficult time for the NBA." Robbins notes the crowd "booed only once all night: as Howard was on the public-address system introducing controversial boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was a celebrity coach" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/14). The AP's Kyle Hightower notes Howard "deflected all questions about the current NBA labor dispute." Fans "paid between $25 and $100 for their tickets," and all proceeds "benefited Howard's charitable D12 Foundation" (AP, 11/13).
THOMAS DISPUTES REPORT: Florida Int'l Univ. men's basketball coach Isiah Thomas Friday disputed "a claim he has designs to become executive director" of the NBPA (N.Y. POST, 11/13).
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith is “again facing scrutiny as a result of player punishments that may be handed out for irresponsible or illegal conduct during the lockout this offseason,” according to Jason Cole of YAHOO SPORTS. Sources said that 10 players are "facing fines from the league for violating the substance abuse policy by testing positive for recreational drugs.” NFLPA team reps said that Smith “made promises that there would be a ‘grace period’ for players after an agreement was reached” with the owners over a new CBA in late July. One player rep said, “I told De that this was a concern of a number of players after the lockout ended and he said, ‘I got you covered.’” NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello confirmed that Smith and the union have “discontinued a program known as the player advisory council.” Aiello: “De Smith was not interested in continuing it as a joint program. Troy Vincent heads up our Player Engagement initiative and is in regular contract with current and former players.” But Cole noted the player reps were “concerned about that dissolving of the advisory council.” One player reps said, “You’d think we’d want to have direct contact with [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell]. I don’t understand the move at all. We’ll see what De has to say” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/11). ESPN’s Adam Schefter cited a source as saying that Smith “led players to believe there would be a grace period for drug-testing following the lockout, yet according to the same source the NFLPA never asked for one.” Two of the players involved are Redskins TE Fred Davis and OT Trent Williams (“Sunday NFL Countdown,” ESPN, 11/13).
STALL TACTICS: CBS’ Charley Casserly reported NFL officials “sent a memo to all 32 clubs this week saying that they did not find” the latest HGH testing proposal “acceptable.” One of the league’s “biggest problems” with the proposal is that the NFLPA "wanted testing to be done in the off-season and preseason, not during the season.” Casserly noted DC lawmakers are “going to go forward on their course to begin inquiries in the future.” Lawmakers also said that there are “scientists who severely questioned whether you could establish a test standard of current NFL players because how many of these players have tainted samples that you'd be looking at” (“The NFL Today,” CBS, 11/13). USA TODAY’s Tom Pedulla notes Goodell yesterday “repeatedly urged players to allow” testing for HGH to begin. Goodell said of the union, "They've run out of questions. All of the answers have been given. It's time to start testing. It's what we agreed to, and what we expect to do." Goodell had met with “approximately 100 local athletes to discuss the league's effort to promote safety in all sports.” He noted the “possibility of Congressional intervention” if testing is not implemented. Goodell: "They have been very clear that, if it is not done, they would hold hearings" (USA TODAY, 11/14).
GUIDING LIGHT: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft was profiled last night on NBC’s “Nightly News” ahead of the Patriots-Jets “SNF” game, and NBC’s Lester Holt called Kraft the “guiding force” in getting a new NFL CBA this summer. Kraft's wife Myra died of cancer in July, and “during some of the most difficult days of his life (he) was determined that there would be football.” Holt said, “You won't find a prouder NFL owner or one more passionate about the game or his team, and so when the labor dispute between players and owners threatened the season, New England Patriots boss Robert Kraft knew both sides would have to change the tone.” Kraft: “We found a way to break into a smaller group where there was less noise, and get away from the intense rhetoric.” Holt said to Kraft, “You wanted to get into the room, just mano a mano.” Kraft replied, “We listened to one another and we responded.” Kraft said the negotiations and the personal trauma he was suffering made it a “difficult period in my life” and the hug he received from Colts C Jeff Saturday after the deal was reached “was special” ("Nightly News," NBC, 11/13).
After "exercising its right for the first time to audit select NHL clubs, the NHLPA believes it has discovered unreported revenues from last season," according to sources cited by Larry Brooks of the N.Y. POST. That, in addition to a "dispute over whether the $25 million Glendale, Ariz., paid the NHL to keep the Coyotes from absconding to Winnipeg should be considered hockey-related revenue, is what is holding up issuance of the escrow refunds to the players and checks to the owners who qualify for the second round of 2010-11 revenue sharing." Sources said that the Capitals and Predators are "among at least a handful of clubs that have been cited for failure to declare hockey-related revenue, with the matter now more likely than not to be decided in arbitration." Sources noted that the union is "prohibited from auditing past seasons regardless of the degree (if any) of malfeasance, misfeasance or just plain carelessness of those clubs who allegedly under-reported revenue to be shared with the athletes." Former NHLPA Exec Dir Ted Saskin "signed a side agreement after the last CBA was reached in '05 that "precludes the PA from auditing teams once the books on a season are closed." Meanwhile, a high-ranking team source said that the players "'will get 48 to 50 percent, and there will be a rollback' in the next CBA as if it is a fait accompli." The players currently are "entitled to 57 percent of the revenue" under the deal conceived that expires on Sept. 15. Sources said that NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr is "not only telling players that negotiating sessions will be open to all members of the union but urging them to attend whenever possible, all expenses paid." Sources also said that Fehr intends to bring on former MLBer and player rep Tom Glavine to the NHLPA to "serve as a conduit to the athletes" (N.Y. POST, 11/13).
SENSE OF OPTIMISM: In New Jersey, Rich Chere noted in the months leading up to the '04-05 work stoppage, players "were told by the union to save their money and prepare for the cancellation of the season." But Devils G Martin Brodeur said, "That hasn’t happened this time. It definitely was mentioned, but we feel there is a lot of room for both sides to talk about stuff. I’m not 100 percent sure of all the issues. But, by the look of it compared to the last time, it’s night and day. That’s a really good sign, unless there is a really big surprise." He added, "I’m not 100 percent sure it will get done in September. It could be extended and we could play for a time while we’re talking about it. It seems to be a lot healthier relationship between the players and the owners from last time when we were under Bob Goodenow. But you never know" (NJ.com, 11/13).