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NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Posted on: October 12, 2011 6:24 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 8:54 pm
The NBA labor talks are headed for government intervention after the canceling of games drew the attention of the nation's top federal mediator.

George Cohen, director of the federal mediation and conciliation service, will oversee further negotiations between the NBA and its players' association on a new collective bargaining agreement, the agency said in a news release Wednesday. The sessions will begin Tuesday in New York.

"For a number of months, I have participated in separate, informal, off-the-record discussions with the principals representing the NBA and the NBPA concerning the status of their collective bargaining negotiations," Cohen said in the statement. "It is evident that the ongoing dispute will result in a serious impact, not only upon the parties directly involved, but also, of major concern, on interstate commerce—i.e., the employers and working men and women who provide services related to the basketball games, and, more generally, on the economy of every city in which those games are scheduled to be played.

"In these circumstances, the agency has invited, and the parties have agreed, to convene further negotiations under my auspices," Cohen said.

Billy Hunter, the NBPA's executive director, divulged in a radio interview with WFAN in New York earlier Wednesday that the two sides had agreed to have their failed negotiations federally mediated.

Cohen, appointed by President Obama, was called upon to mediate the NFL's labor negotiation with the NFL Players Association before that sport's recent lockout was imposed. He has no binding authority and can only make suggestions. If nothing else, a fresh set of eyes and opinions -- not to mention meetings with a different venue and format -- couldn't hurt.

Cohen has argued five landmark labor cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and last year helped avert a crisis in Major League Soccer's labor talks. He is a former appellate court attorney with the National Labor Relations Board, and in fact argued before then-U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the day she issued an injunction that effectively ended the Major League Baseball strike in 1995. Cohen was the MLBPA's lead attorney in the case, and also has worked with the NBPA.

In a Los Angeles Times article from March, football agent Leigh Steinberg said a good mediator is "an expert in the psychology of human gridlock." To that extent, Cohen has joined the right fight, as the NBA and NBPA are hopelessly, needlessly gridlocked over issues that should have been easily solved once they approached a compromise on how to divide the sport's $4 billion of revenues. The league's bargaining talks broke off Monday night after 13 hours over two days and multiple sessions over a two-week period. The league on Monday canceled the first two weeks of the regular season.

Drawn by the fact that lost games will have an economic impact beyond the parties involved, Cohen's office called both parties this week to request that they voluntarily participate in mediation, two sources said. Both agreed.

For those wondering why the step wasn't taken sooner, federal mediators generally don't get involved in labor disputes unless asked, or unless they reach an impasse after the sides had ample time to bargain. The NFL requested Cohen's involvement before the lockout was imposed, and while it's unclear what impact he had on the ultimate resolution, his powers at the time were muted by the lack of urgency in the talks.


Since: Oct 13, 2011
Posted on: October 13, 2011 9:46 am

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

George Cohen said "It is evident that the ongoing dispute will result in a serious impact, not only upon the parties directly involved, but also, of major concern, on interstate commerce—i.e., the employers and working men and women who provide services related to the basketball games, and, more generally, on the economy of every city in which those games are scheduled to be played"  While correct, isn't the point of this whole thing being missed.  Besides the lost work for the service providers, the economic gain from these games being played is a direct result of economic contributions of the local fans who are overpaying for all these goods and services provided by the NBA.  So the economic impact that Cohen referred to isn't that great because the consumers will have additional monies now to spend in other ways.  Really, if our economy/consumers didn't have to pay to generate about $2.5 Billion for the NBA through ticket sales and concessions alone, what would be the economic impact of that.  Most of us would be better off.

Since: Oct 13, 2011
Posted on: October 13, 2011 9:27 am

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

I think this process may actually have a chance now with federal mediator Cohen. However, the last sentence in your paragraph is the one that may ultimitly get this deal done. Unlike football, basketball season starts in the middle of football season and baseball is closing out thier season with thier playoff's. Baseketball just doesn't have the same leverage as football did during thier lockout. Add the fact that the economy is sluggish at best and you have a very dangerous situation for the NBA. Bsketball right now takes a backdoor to thias things and the further along this goes the more fans I think the NBA will lose. Some fans that aren't as die hard as some may not come back with open arms right away and what happened to baseball may indeed happen to the NBA. It may take awhile to win those fans back and that would affect the revenues the owners and players are fighting for. I would love to see my Spurs play this season as it may be Tim's last and old father time is creeping up on Manu as well.

Since: Sep 11, 2007
Posted on: October 13, 2011 9:13 am

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Perhaps the headline should have read, "Obama Panders for 32 Cities' Votes."  At least it would have been honest.

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: October 13, 2011 7:45 am

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

The Federal mediator has been an effective laxitive for similar constipation before. They DO have a less biased perspective, and other means to apply pressure to wounds that have bled out all common this one.

The mediator will assess and reinforce to both sides what the NBA can afford, and what the market will bear. I'm sure BOTH sides have issues that will result in LESS, not more, for each...Owners will have to have a system that insures a safety valve on expenses such as the cap limits players refuse to acknowledge...and players are going to be told that an "unfair labor" claim where the average salary approaches $5 mil a year, is as ridiculous as thinking that players are partners, not employees. If the logjam isn't cleared up quickly, the mediator will suggest the obvious- owners can redraw an agreement that makes sense to them, execute any outstanding contractual obligations, and open camps for players that will agree to terms and play with or without the former NBPA members...then it's not a lockout- it's either a strike, or a non-performance of contract issue. Either way, if it goes that far, players will never have as much as they walked away from, in the NBA or anywhere else they decide to play. It might wind up being the best thing, long term that can happen for the NBA.  

Stern, described alternately below as a dictator, and someone that can't get cooperation from players is as contradictory as the opposing sides in this ridiculous argument. Stern has actually made the problem worse by coddling the players too much, and allowing owners to irresponsibly overspend on them. Players are very well paid, but they are largely ignorant of the financial semantics of how the NBA has to function, and have the mistaken impression that owners have no choice but to give the players more control and more money.     

Since: Oct 1, 2006
Posted on: October 13, 2011 6:09 am

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Tribe fan the feds are getting involved to give a fresh set of eyes and to make the players and owners know there is more to it then their billions but the hourly wage and salary workers that it will effect.  This is what the feds are supposed to be doing in a time like this and I am happy to see they are doing their jobs.  It's not about party affiliation or votes it's about the American public that counts on their representatives to represent them correctly.  Damn glad to see the feds getting involved.  As for the leadership of the league, the owners need to fire David Stern because this is the second time in 14 years this has happened.  His dictatorial leadership and plan to promote stars and big city markets has put the league on the brink of bigger problems than a lockout but loss of fan base which will adversely effect hundreds of thousands of American citizens.

Since: Oct 1, 2006
Posted on: October 13, 2011 5:59 am

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Federal Government is getting involved because there is more at stake than players and owners.  Right now with a economic recession there are 32 cities where arena workers will be out of work.  There are 32 teams where team employees will be out of work.  There are 32 cities where hotel workers will be working less.  There will be 32 cities where owwer restaurant workers will be employed.  Around the country advertising agencies, media companies, and countless other businesses will be hurting financially.  It will also hurt the airline industry as fans follow teams around the country.  There is a lot more at statek and it's good to see the federal government sticking up for all of those that are not OWNERS OR PLAYERS.  Whether they mediators know anything about sports is irrrelevant the players and owners have to realize its more than just themselves they are thinking about.

Since: Aug 17, 2010
Posted on: October 13, 2011 3:54 am

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Go create your own league, and be done with the NBA.  I hope this goes on for a couple of years, so the good college players could stay in college for more than a year.  College basketball is so much better to watch anyway, as long as that sticks around i'll be happy.

Since: Aug 26, 2006
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:22 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

I know this will most likely fall on deaf ears, as it pertains to a league in which 90% of its fan base receives welfare checks, but why in the hell is the federal governemnt getting involved? What the hell do they have to do with any of this? They can't even balance a budget. What do they know about arbitrating professional sports?!

Since: Apr 3, 2010
Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:54 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Whats the NBA?

Since: Jun 13, 2007
Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:38 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

I can help out here.  The NBA claims it is losing money.  The players say that is not true.  The owners are offering a BRI of 50/50.  The players are offering 53/47.  The owners are going to get screwed because mediators always favor labor/players.  The two sides have irreconcilable differences.  As in any relationship where there are irreconcilable differences, a separation is tried.  So in this case, let's cancel the 2011-12 season.  If the separation seems to be the best way to go, then both sides look to dissolve the relationship.  In this case, both sides can kill off the association.  The kids are always hurt in a divorce.  I feel bad for the people and businesses who will be affected by this, but it really isn't our business for anyone to interfere with these negotiations.  This relationship is like a failed message.  Open up the pre-nups and let's start fresh with a new professional basketball league.

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