WAR OF WORDS ESCALATES IN NBA LABOR BATTLE
"The battle over decertification of the NBA Players
Association intensified Wednesday as each side hurled
inflammatory rhetoric at the other," according to David Moore in
this morning's DALLAS MORNING NEWS. "Dissident" players led by
Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and attorney Jeffrey Kessler held
a press conference in Chicago and a teleconference with the media
to reiterate their stance, and NBA Commissioner David Stern also
held a teleconference to push the league's perspective. Jordan:
"A fair deal begins with what we just finished. Everyone has
said the league is successful, the players and the owners are
both making money. Let's start with that and move forward.
Don't start below that and make the players try to get that back.
... I know if David Stern represented the players, he would not
ask the players to accept this deal from a business standpoint.
Why is he asking us to accept this now?" Stern: "If I were a
player, I would say what everyone else knows, and that is the cap
was riddled with some Mickey Mouse loopholes that made us a
laughing stock. We stepped up and made substantial financial
promises to the players. ... I would say, hey, we have a heck of
a lot better deal than the football union negotiated by a large
margin. I think we struck a pretty good compromise. It's easy
to use phrases like rollback, and we did tighten some loopholes.
But tell me, is the ability to become a free agent after three
years, is the reduction of the draft to one round, is the
increase in the percentage of revenue that will push the average
salary to $3 million by the end of this deal, a rollback? I
would ask people to study this deal and reach their own
conclusions" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/17).
I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE: According to most press
accounts, Stern took direct aim at Kessler for driving the
campaign of "misinformation" about decertification and the
proposed CBA. Stern: "I listened to a lawyer misrepresent the
facts of the deal, and we owe it to our players to get the truth
out. We've allowed him to occupy the public, and he's putting
out all sorts of disinformation in the newspaper. Maybe I made a
mistake in allowing it to be put out there without saying
anything before. ... The decertificaiton effort is an attempt to
kidnap the negotiation process, and we're not going to abide by
the kidnapping. I hate to predict doom, but if it happens, and
the owners are clear about this, I don't believe there can be a
season" (Dave D'Alessandro, BERGEN RECORD, 8/17).
THERE'S A MR. STERN ON LINE 1: According to Jeffrey Denberg
in the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, Stern "probably will contact
dissident players with a personal plea to support the new labor
agreement." Stern: "I've been known to lobby our players from
time to time." The commissioner also said team execs will reach
out as well. Stern: "We have designated people on each team who
will talk with the players because we are very interested in
having a season. We will urge them to study the deal and vote."
Denberg also reports that Stern will call a meeting of owners
immediately after the vote (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 8/17).
STICK TO YOUR OWN SPORT: Stern took at aim at NFLPA Exec
Dir Gene Upshaw for urging NBA players to decertify. Stern: "I
am especially perplexed as to why Gene Upshaw is going around
talking to our players about decertifying. His league has a hard
cap. ... I think he would worry about his own league" (L. C.
Johnson, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 8/17).
MORE FROM MJ & CO.: Jordan in today's CHICAGO TRIBUNE:
"What we're asking, and what we're basically using
decertification as, is an opportunity to get the fairest deal and
he [Stern] controls that issue. We're not striking here. We
want to play." Jordan, to the fans: "It's not us causing this.
It's the league that has locked us out thus far, which has
enabled us to do what we can to give the season back to the fans.
... We don't want the same situation as baseball. But at the
same time, I don't think it's fair for them to pressure us to
accept a bad deal so that the fans can criticize the players.
That's the way the league is positioning this whole situation."
Jordan, on the rank-and-file: "Yeah, it's a good deal for us --
for the superstars. But for these young players who are going to
move forward and make this league and make the game of basketball
as popular as it is today, it's not a good deal for them. That's
why we're making this stand" (Terry Armour, CHICAGO TRIBUNE,
8/17). Alonzo Mourning: "We should be compensated on our
talent, our worth to our team and also the success of the team."
Patrick Ewing: "It's printed that I have the most to lose, so if
I can step up and put my money where my mouth is, I think all the
other guys should do the same" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 8/16).