Blog Entry

Is there hope for a lockout compromise?

Posted on: September 6, 2011 9:44 am
By Matt Moore

Chris Sheridan has written for ESPN the past six years and has since left the WWL and started his own site. In his first post, he comes out guns blazing with a pretty unpopular opinion: the labor dispute is not as rancorous as it has been made out to be, the two sides are within a horizon's distance of a deal, and no games will be missed this season. 

That's right. No games. So Chris isn't exactly spouting off the same stuff you hear, which can be considered a good and a bad thing. Sheridan lays out his reasons for believing in a thing called the 2011-2012 season in considerable detail, including all the pertinent financial elements. But nothing is more key than this: the length of the deal. From
The gap in what each side is seeking financially in Years 4, 5 and 6 is more significant, and what the owners are asking for in Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 is not completely germane to the equation right now because the players have not indicated they would be willing to do a deal for longer than six years, and history shows the sides traditionally have negotiated six-year labor agreements.

Owners and players are scheduled to reconvene Wednesday or Thursday to set in motion a series of meetings that will determine whether the lockout is settled in time to save a full 82-game season. If the owners come to the table with an offer that promises more money than the flatlined $2 billion in Years 1-7 that they have been proposing, they’ll be getting somewhere. So that’s the first thing to watch for.
via SheridanHoops | The Website of former ESPN and AP basketball writer Chris Sheridan.

Now, this kind of glosses over a significant element, which is that much of what the owners are asking for goes against what has been SOP for labor disputes. They want a revision to a hard cap from a soft cap. They want a significant realignment of revenue splits in a drastic departure from a pre-existing agreement. They want the elimination of exceptions. All of these things have happened in other sports labor negotiations, but to say that they're common place is wrong. So while it's true that ten-year agreements seldom happen and six-year terms are much more common, that doesn't alter the fact that the owners are looking for wholesale changes to the existing structure, and a ten-year term is just as likely as anything else to be part of their unwielding position. 

But if the owners were to give up on years 7-10, there's wiggle room. There's room for the owners to get massive concessions financially, which has been their short-term and long-term goal, while also setting a new precedent for the next round of CBA talks in 2017. There's enough of a foothold for the players to stay on the mountain financially while surrendering a reasonable compromise in terms of compensation, and it gives them six years to re-establish a position of strength in order to try and regain ground. Live to fight another CBA, if you will. 

Still, even with the advance knowledge that most of what both sides have said is nothing but empty rhetoric, and even with both sides meeting this week for the second time in as many weeks, it's hard to see all the doomsday talk as nothing but bluster. There are hard-liners on both sides, and eventually, even if the intimate circles meeting now are able to find compromises, the BRI Hawks in the owners' contingent and the principled compensation defenders in the union will have to be brought in. And that's where we wind up the same place we've been for two months...


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