SBD/November 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 137: Players Will Decide Today Whether To Vote On Proposal

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).

THE PR PRESS: In DC, Michael Lee notes the NBA "made a spirited effort on Sunday to ensure that the details of its latest collective bargaining proposal to the players have been laid out for consumption." In addition to Stern and Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver's Twitter chat, the league "put a 92-second video on YouTube to dispel any misconceptions about what is being offered." Lee notes the latest offer appears to include "some concessions to the players" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/14). In Chicago, K.C. Johnson notes Twitter "ruled the day in advance of a nervous week for the NBA lockout" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/14). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman notes last month Wade and Stern "got into a heated exchange during a negotiating session in New York over what Wade perceived as an arrogant approach from Stern." Wade has "largely removed himself from the negotiating process" since then, until his comments last night on Twitter (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/14). In Cleveland, Tom Reed notes the NBA "applied a full-court, public-relations press" yesterday, going to "unprecedented measures" with the Twitter session (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/14). FOXSPORTSOHIO's Sam Amico wrote the YouTube "video was just fine, as far as straight information goes, but the Twitter chat was hit and miss." Both sides "seemed on edge" (FOXSPORTSOHIO.com, 11/13).

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).
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