Blog Entry

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. 

Since: Jan 8, 2008
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:34 pm

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

nba sucks

Since: Jan 8, 2008
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:32 pm

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

Footballs is on.

Since: Dec 19, 2010
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:19 pm
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Since: Dec 27, 2007
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:04 pm

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

Stern is doing what Selig doesn't have the brains, nor guts to do. He's drawing a line in the sand and telling the players, the gravy train is over. They'll still make great money and if the league grows due to some austerity measures, they'll reap the benefits as well. The players are mypoic and see only a percentage split because they're all short-term thinkers.

In the end if the players decline the deal, there is no season, therefore no pay checks. They'll decertify, go to court, be denied and be forced to re-negotiate at more of a disadvantage. Then their union or association will splinter and cease to be effective at all. Stern and the NBA will win big. They'll get their terms and have a weakened union or none at all. For the next negotiation they'll be some figure heads to make it possible to bargain. The players will be similar to their NHL brethren, only worse.

If the players accept the deal, they know they've not only lost, but have been slam dunked. Their manhoods would have dealt a severe blow. You'll hear claims of not just unfairness, but racism and they'll ramp up their mantras and rhetoric to the point they'll lose the vast majority of those who care. When they do return in 2012-2013, they'll have a diminished fan base they may never recoup.

The players knew this was coming, but never had a real strategy other than whining, tweeting and trying to use their media lackeys to force the NBA's hand. Stern has been labeled as racist, a plantantion owner and in some cases even worse. David is far too smart to care, nor yield to the pathetic media types like Bryan Gumbel and Jason Whitlock who have openly taken the players side throwing away any of what little journalistic credibility they had.

So the ball is in the players court. Do they pass or shoot. My guess is they'll pass, whine about the refs and be left with nothing. They'll fight internally, blame Hunter and Fisher, decertify and bring someone from the outside in. They'll sue and be denied as the NFL was. They'll then go back with no leverage and get a deal worse than what is now offered and would have lost a years salary they'll never be able to recoup.

In the end the NBA owners will be the winners, Stern's authority will be unquestioned and the NBA will have more of a chance to flourish in this unstable economy. When it does, the players will get a better deal if they undertand what truly is at stake. They simply don't as of today.

Since: Nov 29, 2009
Posted on: November 6, 2011 1:30 pm

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

Human Eraser Stern Rejects Player Shots - Players to Cave\

It looks like the poor players are going to have a little less Bling. Stern is outnegotiating them and they are on the run, down from 57% to about 51%. Pretty much this will be a done deal at 50-50, with owners winning this round. I feel bad for the players who can't shoot 50% foul shots but will still earn $2 or $3 Million a year. For the Stars, no sweat, they will still get the big bucks. So don't cry for me Argentina, I'm an NBA plawyer with no education making more in 3 years than most people will make in a lifetime, and I can still buy an airhead like Kim Kardashian a $2 Million ring.

Since: Sep 29, 2006
Posted on: November 6, 2011 12:27 pm

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

Berger and the rest of the so called expert analysts haven't had a clue for months.  There will be no basketball this year. It is done.  You now have all the narcissists running the show and when that happens there is no ability to to see the other side.  It is like asking news outlets like ESPN, CBS, Sports illustrated/CNN to stop writing about these guys to see what they do when they are not in the limelight and no one gives two cents about them.  Narcissists think everything is about them until you stop paying attention to them,then they panic.

Since: Oct 10, 2011
Posted on: November 6, 2011 12:03 pm
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Since: Sep 24, 2006
Posted on: November 6, 2011 11:32 am

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

NBPA ... this is the BRI offer ...
  • Wednesday 47%
  • Thursday 46%
  • Friday 45%
  • Saturday 44%
  • Sunday 43%
  • Monday 42%
  • Tuesday 41%
40% from then on ... or shut it down for a year.

Since: Jan 17, 2009
Posted on: November 6, 2011 11:25 am

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

PensPackCavsBucs presents an excellent argument. This has nothing to do with race, and anyone diverting the argument in that direction is attempting take the focus away from the real issue at hand. It is a tactic of those who can't or refuses to comprehend reality and therefore chooses to take the discussion off topic because their argument is weak at best.

I don't recall the race card being dropped in discussions when the NHL locked out their players. Just because the majority of hockey players are white was it justified? No, it was justified because the NHL's economic model was going to put them into fiscal disaster if it was not altered. The NBA is currently having similar issues and trying to do what is in the best interest of their business.

One point I tend to disagree with. The NBA players are the best in their respective field and deserve to get paid what the market will dictate for their services. Unfortunately there are differing viewpoints on what they deserve in compensation. Unlike other occupations, they really don't have many alternatives to command similar compensation. It is just baffling that the players believe they are entitled or have a right to anything accept what someone is willing to pay them.

Since: Jun 16, 2008
Posted on: November 6, 2011 10:53 am

Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline

Why is this still news? I say either cancel the season and get back to us when you figure it out, or let the players go and find replacements. There are plenty of guys out there that would love to play for half of what most of these guys are getting paid. Sure it may be a little like glorified college ball at first but believe me the stars will emerge and most people will forget the names of most of the old players with the exception of about a dozen. One good thing should emerge from all this NBA non sense..... college hoops should get more tv time!

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