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Volume 21 No. 1
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NBA sets player contact rules in case of lockout

The NBA is preparing for a potential lockout by issuing a memo to teams detailing the rules of engagement with players in the event of a work stoppage.

The lengthy memo, sent to all 30 NBA teams the last week of April, provides a comprehensive explanation of team policies regarding player contact in case of a lockout as the league moves closer to the June 30 deadline of its collective-bargaining agreement.

“It is making sure every team is operating under the same set of rules once we reach the end of the existing collective-bargaining agreement,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. “It sets guidelines on the same things we see now in the NFL, the use of practice facilities by players, access to arenas, communications with players.”

As in the NFL, NBA players would not have access to team facilities during a lockout, Silver said.
Silver said that while issuing the memo is standard operating procedure for the league as it nears the end of any collective-bargaining agreement, more provisions have been added since the last time the league went through a lockout.

“The memo has grown over the past few years because of what we have learned from past experience,” he said. “On one hand, we dusted off the old memo, but when we went through a work stoppage last time, there were a lot of questions and a lot of lessons learned. The set of rules is pretty straightforward.” Silver did not outline any detailed additions or changes to the policy.

The NBA late last month submitted a CBA proposal to the players union, and the pace of negotiations is expected to increase as the June 30 deadline approaches. The last lockout in the NBA came during the 1998-99 season, which brought a shortened 50-game schedule.

The memo also provides hypothetical situations facing teams having contact with players, their agents, or any other of their representatives during a lockout.

For example, the memo outlines the policy for when a player has a sponsorship deal with a company that also has a deal with the team. The player would be able to continue that company sponsorship as long as no team marks are used in any activation. The memo also addresses policies related to using player images on team websites.

“It goes to what rights teams have when it comes to marketing players who remain on their rosters,” Silver said, declining to be specific about the team’s marketing rights to a player during a work stoppage.

The memo also outlines to teams a protocol to refer all public comments related to a lockout to the league. It also addresses for teams a wide range of player interaction, ranging from player benefits administration to summer camps to team partners, and outlines ways that teams are forbidden from having contact with the players during a lockout, according to a source.

The memo, which doesn’t imply that there will or will not be a work stoppage, also stresses to teams that they should conduct business as usual in the weeks leading up to the CBA deadline.

“Same kind of instructions,” Silver said. “We didn’t get much reaction from the teams because there are a lot of longtime employees at teams and there are no surprises.”

During the NFL lockout, the NFL bars its teams from having any contact with players other than at charitable functions. But a big challenge for teams is if something happens to a player’s health during the lockout, with the team prevented from having any contact with the player.