NBA Lockout Watch, Day 35: Hunter Says Season Likely To Be Canceled
NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter yesterday said that if "he 'had to bet on it,' he would wager that the entire 2011-12 season would be wiped out by the lockout," according to Jeff Barker of the Baltimore SUN. Hunter, speaking at a National Bar Association conference in Baltimore, said that NBA Commissioner David Stern "was being limited in negotiations by hard-line owners." Hunter: "In the last six or seven years, there is a new group of owners to come in who paid a premium for their franchises, and what they're doing is kind of holding his feet to the fire." Hunter added with both sides dug in, "Something has to happen that both of us can use as leverage to save face." NBA VP/Basketball Communications Tim Frank said that the league "had no immediate response" to Hunter's comments (Baltimore SUN, 8/4). The Nation's Dave Zirin said of Stern, "He's got everybody scared of him. I think the main block to labor peace in the NBA is David Stern, quite frankly.” Washington Post columnist Jason Reid said, “He has juice and he'll shut this thing down as long as he has to until he can turn back the clock to 1980” ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 8/3).
POWER BROKER: TRUE HOOP's Henry Abbott noted attorney Jeffrey Kessler is the "big name in sports labor legal circles, and the pioneer of the antitrust litigation that has had industry-changing results" in the NFL. He also represents the NBPA, and that "seems to bother the owners, who mentioned Kessler by name four times in their recent complaint in federal courts." The owners "say, essentially, that if Kessler's on the scene, antitrust trouble looms." ESPN's Lester Munson said, "Kessler and the players could have some surprises for the owners. My guess is that there will be no decertification and no litigation from the players. But that does not mean we will see a complete NBA season. It means that negotiation will replace litigation as the centerpiece of the lockout" (ESPN.com, 8/3).
DOLLARS AND SENSE: Stern reportedly will not take a salary during the NBA lockout, and columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "This is a corporate ruse. We see CEOs do it all the time when they’re restructuring. We just saw Roger Goodell do it in the NFL when he said, ‘I’m reducing my salary to a dollar,’ while everybody else was locked out. Stop it. He’ll get his money.” Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, “If he takes the money, he’s a bad guy. If he doesn’t take the money, people say, ‘Well, that’s inconsequential.’ He can’t really win that argument" (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 8/3). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said Stern “absolutely” should forfeit his salary. Wilbon: “People making 40 grand getting laid off? Yeah, he should forfeit his salary” (“PTI,” ESPN, 8/3).