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Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:55 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 2:03 pm
 
NEW YORK – With another ultimatum, artificial deadline and accusations of fraud and bad-faith bargaining, the NBA labor talks blew up again early Sunday. This time, they appear to be careening toward a point of no return.

After eight more hours of talks under the direction of a federal mediator, league negotiators delivered a proposal around 1 a.m. ET and informed the players’ association it has until the close of business Wednesday to accept it or receive a far worse deal.

Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler, singled out by David Stern as the one who rejected virtually all the compromises the commissioner said were proposed by mediator George Cohen, described the league’s tactics as “threats” and characterized the NBA’s description of its economic proposal as “fraud.”

“Today is another very sad day for our fans, for our arena workers, our parking-lot attendants, our vendors,” union president Derek Fisher said. “A very frustrating, sad day.”

League negotiators essentially offered the players a 50-50 split of basketball-related income, their obvious target for weeks. The offer was tweaked into the form of a 49-51 percent band for the players’ share – the same band discussed informally Oct. 4 at a key meeting that fell apart over the split of revenues between owners and players.

In the league’s proposal, the players would receive 50 percent of revenues (net about $600 in expense deductions, as in the previous system) if revenues grew as projected – 4 percent a year. Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver portrayed the band as capable of delivering a 51 percent share to the players if there was, as Stern described, “significant growth.”

But Kessler -- speaking with Fisher in the union’s press conference in the absence of executive director Billy Hunter, who was “under the weather,” according to an NBPA official – said it would take the “wildest, most unimaginable, favorable projections” for the players to ever receive 51 percent of revenues.

“The proposal that this is a robust deal at 51 is a fraud,” Kessler said. “… You can't get to the top of the band.”

The players, who received 57 percent under the previous six-year deal, proposed a 51-49 split in their favor – with 1 percent going toward a fund for benefits for retired players, such as health care, life insurance and pensions. The league never responded to that proposal, union officials said. By going from their previous proposal in which they would've received 52.5 percent, the players moved about $60 million in the first year of the new deal and nearly $400 million over six years. The owners remained in essentially the same place they’ve been economically since Oct. 4.

“They've been consistent for weeks,” Kessler said.

“We made the moves that we needed to make to get this deal done on the economics,” Fisher said. “It just doesn’t seem to be good enough for this particular group of team owners.”

Stern said the proposal will be on the table until the close of business Wednesday, after which the owners will forward a new proposal to the players offering them 47 percent of BRI and an NHL-style “flex cap,” two items the players previously have rejected.

“Hope springs eternal,” Stern said. “And we would love to see the union accept the proposal that is now on the table.”

But while the economic gap between the sides – once 20 percentage points apart – has now shrunk to 1 percent, the implosion early Sunday was as much related to system issues as money. But looking at those issues makes it cruelly implausible that they’d lose a season and squander billions of dollars over their differences.

"With the system issues that we felt like were left open, that we felt like were significant, that we must have in order to get a deal done, they did not go very far at all in trying to close that gap," Fisher said. "And we just did not get the sense that they really had the intent on coming in here tonight to get this deal done. Because there was every opportunity to do it. We were prepared to stay here until the sun came up to get this deal done."

The two sides could not bridge the gap on key aspects of the luxury tax system, specifically the penalty for teams that stay over the tax for three years out of five. The league reduced its offer from $1.50 additional tax for such teams to $1, while the union is holding firm at 50 cents additional tax on the first $10 million over the tax level and $1 after that. The punitive impact would only be felt by a handful of teams that historically have spent at those levels.

They also differ over the length and amount of mid-level exceptions that can be used by tax-paying teams. The players want tax-payers to be able to sign players to four-year mid-level deals starting at $5 million every other year. The league proposed two-year mid-level deals starting at $2.5 million every other year.

Non-tax-paying teams would be able to sign players to mid-level deals starting at $5 million, with the length alternating between four and three years each season under the owners’ proposal. The players want straight four-year mid-level deals for non-tax-payers.

The luxury-tax “cliff” experienced by tax teams, by which they felt the full brunt of going slightly over the tax level by losing all the tax money they would’ve received had they stayed under, also was addressed in the owners’ proposal. The league offered that such teams would receive half the tax money squandered by going from being a tax receiver to a tax payer.

The league has not relented on its insistence that tax-paying teams be forbidden to execute sign-and-trade transactions, which the union argues -- when coupled with the other system restrictions -- would dry up the market for free agents in a way that imitates a hard team salary cap.

"They want it all," Kessler said. "They want the system where tax payers will never be in the marketplace and that for repeat tax payers, it's going to be like a hard salary cap. And those deals are not acceptable for players today, and it's not acceptable for future generations of players. ... The players will not be intimidated."

Nonetheless, the players now find themselves at a crossroads that could determine whether there is a 2011-12 season by Wednesday. Can Fisher and Hunter, notably absent from the post-meeting news conference as Kessler fanned the flames, determine whether they can sell essentially a 50-50 deal to more than half the union membership? A deal with no hard cap, with guaranteed contracts, with mid-level deals scaled back mostly for tax-paying teams, and with salaries rising to nearly $3 billion in 10 years despite an initial 12 percent reduction?

If not, the union appears almost certain to dissolve – either through a decertification petition or a more expeditious but legally riskier disclaimer of interest – either of which would throw the talks into chaos and imperil the entire season.

“We’re not going to talk about other options,” Kessler said.

Stern said the threat of decertification is “not an issue that we're focusing on at this point.”

“We are trying to make a deal with the National Basketball Players' Association,” he said. “They are the duly authorized representative of the NBA players. That's a good thing, and we hope to make a deal with them.”

Fisher said he would communicate with the players and "assess our situation. … But right now, we’ve been given the ultimatum. And our answer is, that’s not acceptable to us."

In the end, the truest words spoken early Sunday morning came from Kessler, who said the owners' tactics were "not happening on Derek Fisher's watch. It's not happening on Billy Hunter's watch. It's not happening on the watch of this executive committee."

If the players successfully decertified, none of the aforementioned would be in power. 

A decertification petition requiring the signatures of 30 percent of union membersship would put the union on approximately a 60-day clock before an election is held to disband it -- and that's only if the National Labor Relations Board authorizes the election. Typically, the agency does not when a union has an unfair labor practices charge pending.

The mere signing of the petition by 30 percent of the union would not by itself cease negotiations since the union would remain in power until the election, which wouldn't happen before January -- if at all.

That leaves two months for cooler heads to prevail. But really, the stopwatch has been set for four days -- 96 hours to spare chaos. Of all the inflammatory words spoken after this latest fiasco, the words "best and final offer" were never among them.

That's legal mumbo-jumbo for this: There's still time to end the asshattery, if everyone's heads return to a place where oxygen is available.

The clock is ticking. 
Comments

Since: Nov 24, 2006
Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:38 pm
 

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

@ DelgadoCOD


BUMP!



Since: Aug 12, 2007
Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:34 pm
 

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

Owners should stall another month.  By then, 50% of the PLAYERS will be living in their cars, and will come back to work for $25 per game.



Since: May 11, 2007
Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:30 pm
 

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

The owners are in control, plain and simple.  The players are certainly the product, but don't forget there was an NBA before LaBron, Garnett, Kobe, etc. and there will be an NBA after all of those guys.  The players have no place to possibly go where they can get the type of money the owners are currently putting on the table even at the 47%.  Decertification would play into the owners hands as it would allow the owners to split the talent and bring back enough talen to still have a great product. The ultimatum is the right move and will eventuallly work. 


sman2011
Since: Dec 19, 2010
Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:14 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator




Since: Jan 13, 2011
Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:14 pm
 

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

I totally disagree: while a few people do attend games to see a few specific players, the vast majority of fans at games are there to see the TEAM.
Two things bub:

1) Never speak for anyone but yourself ... it's a sign of limited capacity.

2) I disagree with you based on ... even people in Cleveland wouldn't show up for "just" Cleveland.



Since: Jan 4, 2011
Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:09 pm
 

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

I totally disagree: while a few people do attend games to see a few specific players, the vast majority of fans at games are there to see the TEAM.  The team is the product - not the players.  The Celtics, Lakers, Sixers, or whoever, are the product, were the product before these greedy, egotistical, 4 steps-to-the-basket players were even born, and will still be the product long after the current players are gone. 



Since: Jan 13, 2011
Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:08 pm
 

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

“Today is another very sad day for our fans, for our arena workers, our parking-lot attendants, our vendors,” union president said. “A very frustrating, sad day.”
No problemo ... the players will simply go back to their old jobs. Knocking off 7/11's and home invasion robberies that quite frankly but them much closer to their fan base.

"Join Ron Artest for an afternoon of ... hey mister that wallets mine."



Since: Sep 27, 2006
Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:00 pm
 

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

The owners have always had the advantage in these negotiations.  They have been holding firm at a 50-50 split, and have not budged one fraction of an inch.  The players are in a weak sitation, and it's getting weaker by the day.  The rookies and players who rarely come off the bench are going to be more than willing to take what they can get, and the players who are looking at their last season are hoping for one last big payday before they retire.  So the only ones who would be interested in sitting it out are the starters and regular bench players with at least one year experience and enough talent to hang around for at least this year and next.

I understand that a lot of the players probably feel that if they accept what the owners are offereing them, they'll be getting screwed.  But what they need to understand is that once their playing days are over, NOBODY is going to offer them millions of dollars to play a game of anything.  It's time for them to swallow their pride and accept reality.



Since: Jan 10, 2008
Posted on: November 6, 2011 7:50 pm
 

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

Looks like Delgado gets it.




Since: Jan 10, 2008
Posted on: November 6, 2011 7:49 pm
 

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

Noles is correct. Professional sports is unique in labor negotiations because the laborers are ALSO the product.  It's entirely different than laborers who make or are associated with the making of the product.  We shouldn't criticize players any more than we should criticize owners.  They're a lot more equal as collective units than a normal business model.


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