Blog Entry

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: Jun 17, 2007
Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:37 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

I hope they get a deal done........just in time for the 2067 season.  Screw the NBA

Since: Mar 26, 2011
Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:13 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Yea, like he represented MLBPA, has worked with the NBPA, and was appointed by Obama. Notice that the quote about his credentials is from an agent. I'm sure the owners will get a fair shake on this one.

Since: May 20, 2011
Posted on: October 12, 2011 9:51 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

If we are to believe the owners, the NBA cannot continue with a broken economic model in which nearly half the teams suffered losses. Even a casual observer sees the NBA as a league that is becoming more unbalanced with a majority of the teams never having a realistic opportunity to win a championship. The league suffers from poor leadership with limited vision about the league's responsibilities to its fans and cities that subsidize arenas. A federal mediator may be helpful but I am pessimistic that anything will get done before January at the earliest. 

Since: Dec 3, 2007
Posted on: October 12, 2011 9:12 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

The Feds are getting involved so more claims can be made for "job creation".   Watch and see.

Since: Jun 18, 2011
Posted on: October 12, 2011 8:57 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Get a deal done.

Since: Jul 23, 2011
Posted on: October 12, 2011 8:39 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Mediators add a different dynamic to labor negotiations.  Good ones can nudge both sides along, bridging gaps and opening new dialogue.  Those that aren't so good tend to muddy the waters and add to the frustration.  There is nothing binding here.  Rather it is a new ingredient in the process that may serve as a catalyst to make something positive happen.  It is a shame that the two sides cannot reach agreement on their own and in fact should have months ago.  The owners have played hardball, engaging in brinkmanship.  The players have stuck to their guns or been delusional depending on one's perspective.  Over time the question that may strike fear in the collective hearts of both sides is if they don't reach agreement how many of us will care?

Since: Aug 2, 2011
Posted on: October 12, 2011 7:57 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

If this mediation helps the NBA and NBPA organise what is left of the season then this is worth looking in to however, I feel that as most os the stars are now contracted to play abroad in China and Europe without possibly being able to break those contract deals already signed then it will be a lower standard of the previous NBA seasons in recent years.

Even though it is not my sport, I honestly think this year they should forget an NBA season and if owners want to increase the popularity of basketball and NBA in foreign markets, why not build franchises in Europe, China, Oceania regions and link up weith their NBA franchise

Since: Mar 22, 2009
Posted on: October 12, 2011 7:54 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

Who pays his fee?

Since: May 28, 2008
Posted on: October 12, 2011 7:35 pm

NBA talks headed to federal mediator

We dont want them premadona's playing.  We have the NFL, NHL, College Basketball, the baseball after that.  We dont need them.

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