Blog Entry

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

Posted on: February 13, 2010 10:25 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2010 11:10 pm
DALLAS – NBA players simply make too much money, commissioner David Stern said Saturday night, and salaries must be curtailed to keep the league afloat. 

Citing $400 million in operating losses this season – and an average of $200 million annually in previous years of the current collective bargaining agreement – Stern issued a challenge to the players’ union to come back with a proposal that would develop “a sustainable business model.” 

“At our current level of revenue devoted to players’ salaries, it's too high,” Stern said. “I can run from that, but I can't hide from that, and I don't think the players can, either.” 

In a state-of-the-league address that was alternately witty and biting, Stern ridiculed union chief Billy Hunter’s assertion that the owners’ initial proposal was taken off the table during a contentious bargaining session Friday during All-Star weekend. 

“I don't know what that means,” Stern said. “We are talking semantics, and everyone around here knows that I am not anti semantic.” 


“I don't know what to say,” Stern said. “If they don't like it, you know, that's what counters are about. Speak to me, that's all. Off the table, on the table, under the table; I don't even understand it. The answer is, it's for them to make a proposal.” 

While Stern was in rare form on those topics, he artfully dodged three of the most important issues related to avoiding a lockout if the two sides can’t reach an agreement by June 30, 2011:

1) The 2010 free-agent class: Though Stern professed no urgency to reach agreement on a framework of a new economic system by July 1 of this year, the owners need cost-certainty by then in order to plan accordingly for spending on the biggest free-agent class in NBA history. Since the players like the current system, they’re in no hurry to speed up the process. So owners will have to risk committing max money to free agents this summer and having it come back to haunt them if the cap falls as far as the union predicts under the owners’ proposal – from $57.7 million to about $43 million.

2) Revenue Sharing: Stern said he’s committed to revamping the revenue-sharing model to help low-revenue teams compete. Despite saying it would be done “in lock step” with collective bargaining, Stern also said, “We can’t do it until we complete the negotiations.” Asked to explain why, Stern said, “We are going to do it all at once. It’s going to be when we have the new collective bargaining agreement.” According to internal NBA documents obtained by, 12 teams averaged more than $1 million per game in ticket revenue during the 2008-09 season, with seven of those teams making the playoffs. Six teams made less than $600,000 per game, and only one – the Hawks – made the playoffs. “When we get to where we need to get to, there will be a very robust revenue sharing where teams will not be in a position to decline to compete because of money,” Stern said.

3) Other Ways to Reduce Expenses: While there have been cutbacks at the league office and on the team side, Stern admitted that his precious expansion to international markets has been a drag on the league’s financial picture. Stern referred to investments in such countries as India and China as having “not great margins.” But he refused to concede that reducing the league’s global efforts would be another way to rein in expenses. “We think that this will be a large payoff for future players that the present players are benefiting from because of investments that were made previously,” Stern said. But it seems to me that present players aren’t benefiting if the owners are asking them to accept less money while the league plans to open offices this year India, Africa, and the Middle East, with exhibition games planned for Mexico City, Barcelona, Paris, London, Beijing, Milan, and Guangzhou.

“Other expenses squeeze us,” Stern said, when pressed on the issue, “but player expenses are too high.”

Stern relished taking shots at what he described as the union’s “theatrics” during Friday’s negotiating session, though he later said, “I would have to plead guilty to participating a bit in such negotiations as well.” He accused union attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who also is handling CBA negotiations for the NFL, of “threatening us.” One such threat, Stern revealed after his news conference, was that the union would decertify and sue the NBA for anti-trust violations. Coincidentally, the league recognized during All-Star Saturday night festivities Spencer Haywood, the first player to challenge the NBA's eligibility requirements. Haywood's anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA went to the Supreme Court in 1971, and Haywood won the right to join the league although he didn't complete four years of college.

For the second straight day, a story published by was raised in a news conference on the subject of labor talks. According to sources, Stern was referring to a Jan. 29 story in which a team executive ridiculed LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, saying James could “play football” and Wade could “be a fashion model” if they didn’t like the drastically reduced maximum contracts owners were proposing. Other news outlets published similar swipes, including Yahoo! Sports, which quoted an anonymous team executive who characterized the owners’ proposal as “a photocopy of Stern’s middle finger.” 

Stern said he was “offended” by the comments, calling them “cowardly,” and he apologized to players’ negotiating committee and the 10 All-Stars who were so enraged by the stories that they showed up at the bargaining session Friday. 

“Some of our so called team executives have been quoted – as you might expect anonymously – in the media, and saying disparaging things about our players,” Stern said. “If you know me, and you know our owners, that’s not what we do. That’s not us. And the players were upset with those quotes, which I find cowardly, if they were actually said. And if I ever found out who said them, they would be dealt with; they would be former, former NBA people, not current. And we assured the stars of that.” 


Since: Feb 19, 2009
Posted on: February 14, 2010 8:55 am

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

AMEN BROTHER!!!!  The NBA is a waste of time and space!

Since: Aug 24, 2009
Posted on: February 14, 2010 8:44 am

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

TheAnomaly: I guess I didn't explain well enough. 

My point is, It is now time to negotiate a new deal. 

1) I don't think the players mind having to give back.  They understand the economic climate better than any other group of NBA players in history. They are very involved in their own dealings regularly.

2) Who is to blame? My point was, Who is to blame?  David Stern.  He excepts the throne of best Commissioner in sports, and the major CEO power.  Why would you allow these teams to spead so loosely without regard for their future?  No commissioner is for the player side. Nor should they.  But should they side with owners that can not understand when they should spend max money on lower tier talent.  Tell me how can the Utah Jazz be one of the profitable teams in the League and Seattle have to lose their team. Better business men. 

3)  This is the first time this has happen.  It only repeats itself and the people who right the checks and govern the system are the same.

4) The NBA is being run like our national economy.  Corporate first, trickle down next, and blame the system when it fails, when in realty you are the system. Don't gamble on the outlandish. 

5) Don't every blame your employees for excepting money you offer them.  

6) Rvenue sharing.  Because, I can't run my business to a profit, please help me stay in business to make more bad decisions. That's way I say Stern has to stop siding with the owners.  He has to tell them some things they don't want to hear.  Stop speading on bad investments.  
Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?  I don't know.  Just thoughts.

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: February 14, 2010 8:26 am


I thought the NBA was supplementing their income by fixing games? 

Since: Aug 24, 2009
Posted on: February 14, 2010 8:06 am

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

get:  Have been in the real world ever?  I got laid off from a great job.....why?  Revenues went down.  Pay cuts and lay offs are REALITY.  You can't continue to operate on teh revenues of five years ago.  If the corporate well dried up.....what do you think that is???  MONEY.  So the owners should keep paying out the same salaries even though revenues aren't the same????


You could never run a business in the REAL world.  You'd be can't operate in the red for very long.

The players all benefitted from the success of the NBA and the economy.  Guess what?  That's all GONE.  Time to adjust.  Corrections happen all the time.

You mention Tracy McGrady.....well, that's what they are trying to change.....the max deals and guaranteed money. 

You complain a lot but don't really address the need for change.   The owners are trying to change the system that gave McGrady the money.

Do you have a problem with that?

Since: Aug 24, 2009
Posted on: February 14, 2010 7:33 am

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

I'm surprised that no one can really see the problem.  The problem is a simple one.  SPEADING. Who is speading?  The owners.  Stop speading so much money.  The owners are victims of themselves.  They waited until the corporate money well dried up to take a look at their SPEADING.  So now they want to go back to the players and ask for the deal they signed off on to be resended. Don't they know how to plan ahead?  They are victims of themselves, and now David Sterns and all the jealous "nonfans" want to call their employees crybabies.  They hired them at their salaries, payed them at those salaries and now they (the players) are the problem with the system. 
The league and it's owners are not the best Business men in the world, they and David Sterns are the best opppertunist you will meet.  They take advantage of the players of the past, but called them crybabies and drug addicts, they take advantage of the Foreign interest in the game but they put a strain on the finances because of the exchange of distance and fuctuaction in $$'s.  The fans, the poor little blind soldiers, who buy a $80.00 ticket when they can't afford it because they can't see straight.  I went to games regularly as a youth,  and have not gone to but one in the last 30 years and a buddy paid for that ticket.  By the way, I own my own business. Stern pitched the league to Corporate America and put the game on TV for the real fan, that why the seats are empty.  So whenever the economy goes bad this is bound to happen.  By the way, during the last bump in the road Sterns said he would make the game more affordable for the fans, I now wonder which fans he was speaking of. Sterns isn't going to call out his buddy's (corporate america) that he wants to hold out hope for when things turn around, he simply calls out players, an easy target. 

Tracy McGrady is a fault because some dumb business man decided to pay him $25 million, to play basketball this year or any year.  Tracy has been notroriously injury prone forever.  I venture to say they have made the money back 3 times on the marketing of Tracy, and that they could have gotten him alot less than what the Lakers, Heat or most other teams were paying their Stars, if they were halve smart.  Hell, Stafon Marbury got a contract that paid him near that same amount annually.  What idiot in their sinal grandmthers mind would ever pay him that kind of money.  Teams and Owners that do that shouldn't be allowed to go out of business, they might need to be forced out.  Hell sitting McGrady now and just playing him is even a worst decision than signing him for that kind of money in the first place.
I could go on and on but it's time for a new deal.  Don't call out the employees because their employers have over spent.  The "ees" know times have changed and that they must give something back.  "Ers" you just look bad when you place the blame elsewhere when you have the checkbook and the ability to sign them.

By them way, go on the NBA's website and look at the salaries.  It's the owners fault, some of the stars are well over paid, and some complimentary talent are being paid like the stars they are not.

Those poor players, Why would they ever take that much money?    

Since: Jul 5, 2007
Posted on: February 14, 2010 6:19 am

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

they still play pro ball?

my knicks havent been relevant since van gundy coached them

Since: Oct 16, 2007
Posted on: February 14, 2010 4:43 am

The NBA...I Love This Game, but......

something has got to give.  A few years ago, I would have sided with the players by stating that the players (actually the superstars) are the face of the league and they deserve to be paid.  Now that I have been in the corporate world and see how business' actually run, I would have to side with the owners.  I watch basketball on ESPN, TNT, NBA network, etc. and I see A LOT of empty seats all across the nation.  There are only a 10-12 teams that can sell out there stadium game after game.  I live in the Bay Area and the Warriors sell tickets by marketing the other team!!  I'll hear ads on the radio stating "come see KG and Celtics battle your Golden State Warriors" or "see D-Wade and the Miami Heat in their only visit to the Bay Area".  With that said, I BELIEVE that what David Stern and the owners are stating about $400 million operating loss is true.

The owners can't possibly keep paying out more money than they are making.  What if the company you work for was spending more money than it generated?  You bet you can lose your job, they can ask you to take a paycut, etc.   The bottom line is that they (owners and the players union) need to come up with a business model that will work for both sides.  Let's face it....if the NBA folded, what are these players going to do?  How many of them have a college degree?  Can they work in the corporate world for $100K a year?  Are they even smart enough to work a corporate job?

One of the biggest changes that need to be made is the guaranteed contracts....THEY NEED TO GET RID OF THEM.  Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming are 2 examples why the owners need to change how they pay their employees.  These two players make approximately $35 million in 2010!!  How many games have they played this year?    I know, all is fine and dandy when the players are actually playing, but these two guys are/were the big reason why fans went to Rockets games.


Since: Jan 10, 2010
Posted on: February 14, 2010 2:45 am

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

what do u call a bunch of rich cry babies in a room? answer...the NBA. ask terrel owens...its hard feeding your family making 10 million a year....

Since: Jan 2, 2008
Posted on: February 14, 2010 2:41 am

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

Who are Roger Clements and Joe Nasmith?

Since: Mar 8, 2008
Posted on: February 14, 2010 1:20 am

Stern: Cut expenses, but only the players'

I agree psubeerman.  Why would he care about that.  The biggest problem with the NBA is that for some odd reason the best teams get better and the bad teams get worse.   Making it really top heavy.  Meaning, you know that the Lakers are going to beat the Knicks.  In football and baseball, anything can happen.  The Nats can beat the Phillys.  The Rams can beat the Eagles.  Now in sports anything is possible, but the chances are much greater in MLB and the NFL.  That being said, fans of the NBA start losing interest when their team is bad.  Theirs alot of fans going to games in Cleveland, Boston and LA.  Nowhere near as much are going to games in New York, Milwaukee and Indiana.   That makes the entire league suffer due to the lack of competition.  To say they all look like gangsters and thugs is true but without the helmets in football the players would look the same.   So to use that as an excuse why the NBA is suffering is not an accurate statement.  Its because of how close the competition the NFL offers is why its better.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or