Posted on: February 12, 2010 8:20 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2010 10:18 pm
DALLAS -- In a stunning development, 10 All-Stars including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony joined the collective bargaining talks Friday, standing in defiance of commissioner David Stern and the owners' negotiating committee during what was described as a "contentious" and "heated" bargaining session. The owners, according to union chief Billy Hunter, agreed to pull their current proposal off the table, relinquishing ground after hitting the union with demands for a hard salary cap and drastically reduced salaries.
Overreaching with a hard-line initial proposal submitted to the union on Jan. 29 may have backfired on the owners, whose demands for reducing the players' share of revenue, eliminating Larry Bird exceptions, reducing the length of contracts, and virtually eliminating guarantees got the attention of the league's stars. The murderer's row joining Hunter and the players' executive committee also included Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and Al Horford. The players skipped their obligations at the NBA's annual All-Star "day of service" charity events to stand with Hunter and send a message to the owners.
"The players came in there and said, 'We don't want a fight,'" Hunter said. "'But if we're not given any other choice, we won't run from a fight.'"
Calling the owners' proposal "shock and awe" and a "non-starter," Hunter said the players would submit their own proposal in the "near future," but did not provide a date. He described the league as "eager" to get a deal in place by July 1, which marks the beginning of the biggest free-agent signing period in NBA history. The economics behind that impending bonanza are now seriously clouded with the owners and players back to square one in their negotiations.
The current deal, ratified in 2005, expires after the 2010-11 season. The owners, citing massive financial losses they have documented to the union over the past few months, already have notified the players that they will not exercise their option to extend the current deal through the 2011-12 season.
Adam Silver, the NBA's deputy commissioner, issued a statement late Friday disputing Hunter's account.
"While we do not agree with the Players' Association's characterization of today's meeting or the status of the NBA's bargaining proposal, David will address the subject of collective bargaining during his media availability prior to All-Star Saturday night," Silver said.
A year ago at All-Star weekend in Phoenix, Hunter joined Stern for a joint address as an indication of unity heading into the bargaining process. On Friday, Hunter said he had not received a similar invitation for this year and didn't believe one would be forthcoming.
In his first public comments on the owners' proposal, Hunter cited a Jan. 29 story by CBSSports.com in which a source detailed the owners' strategy to drastically reduce the length and amount of max contracts in the new CBA. The report, in which a team executive with knowledge of the bargaining process detailed the owners' belief that the players "need us more than we need them," only served to "inflame" the players, Hunter said. A particular quote from the article was read to the owners' negotiating committee and Stern during Friday's negotiating session at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas.
“If they don’t like the new max contracts, LeBron can play football, where he will make less than the new max,” said the team executive, who spoke to CBSSports.com on condition of anonymity for the Jan. 29 article. “Wade can be a fashion model or whatever. They won’t make squat and no one will remember who they are in a few years.”
The article, and others written on the topic by other media outlets, was circulated to the players -- resulting in the 10 All-Stars going directly from All-Star media day interviews to join the bargaining session across town.
"What it really did was, it really inflamed a lot of the players," Hunter said.
The owners "sensed that this thing had gotten out of control a little bit because of the nature of the proposal that was sent, sort of like when you go for the jugular," Hunter said. "And then when we read stuff ... that they’re going to decimate the union and they’re going to do all these things, I kind of read that back to them and said, 'These are the kind of things that inflamed the players. You can't talk about how you’re going to destroy the union, you’re going to impose the same system that happened in the NHL. And the players came in and said, 'We don’t want to go that way.'"
Hunter said the owners "maybe underestimated the response, the blowback they were going to get from the proposal."
New details of the owners' proposal and their posture -- including their desire to agree to a deal before free agency begins July 1 -- emerged from Hunter's press conference, where he was joined by executive committee members Derek Fisher (president), Adonal Foyle, Theo Ratliff, Roger Mason, Maurice Evans, and Keyon Dooling. Committee member Chris Paul, on crutches as he recovers from knee surgery, attended the bargaining session but not the press conference.
The owners sought to reduce the players' current share of basketball-related income from 57 percent to a figure estimated by union sources to be 37 percent. This would be derived by deducting $1 billion of expenses from the $3.7 billion in annual revenue and then dividing it 50-50 between owners and players. The result, sources said, would be a loss of $750 million for the players in the first year of the new CBA.
The maximum length of contracts would be reduced to four years if a player re-signs with his current team and three years for other free agents from the current length of six years and five years, respectively. Annual raises would be reduced to 2-3 percent, down from 8 percent and 10.5 percent, depending on the contract.
Salary cap exceptions -- such as the Larry Bird exception, which allows teams to go over the cap to retain its own free agents -- would be eliminated. Guaranteed contracts would be dramatically curtailed, allowing only 50 percent of the first $8 million and 25 percent of the rest to be guaranteed, sources said. Contracts would be retro-fitted to conform to the new deal. On balance, the changes would cut roughly in half the maximum salary a top-shelf free agent like James or Wade would be able to receive. Hunter said such a deal would create a system where only two players per team make max money and the rest of the roster would be filled out by minimum-salary players.
"Pretty much everything that they could ever think of, at least in the 15 years I've been here, was in that proposal," Hunter said. "And so our position that it was a non-starter. That was the posture we took from the moment we arrived."
Posted on: December 16, 2008 1:45 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2008 1:48 pm
Sports Business Journal's annual list of the 50 most influential people in sports is out, and NBA Commissioner David Stern is third -- first among major pro sports commissioners.
Stern received credit for steering the league through the potentially devastating officiating scandal, expanding the league's global footprint, and partnering with the NCAA to clean up youth basketball.
Full disclosure: Sean McManus, the president of CBS Sports and CBS News, is eighth -- up one spot from 2007.
The rest of the NBA-related titans who made the list:
11. Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG. Serves on the board of the Los Angeles Lakers, overseeing Philip Anschutz's 30 percent stake in the team and Staples Center.
14. Charlie Denson, president, Nike Brand.
15. Herbert Hainer, chairman and CEO, Adidas.
16. David Levy, president, Turner Sports. The Atlanta-based media company has added control of the NBA's digital media business to its TNT coverage of the league.
23. Jeffrey Kessler, attorney. Outside counsel to both NBA and NFL players.
24. Adam Silver, deputy NBA commissioner. The force behind Stern's global initiative, Silver also spearheaded the recent deal allowing NBA teams to control their local digital rights to stream games live on their Web sites.
27. Casey Wasserman, chairman and CEO, Wasserman Media Group. Primarily through agents Arn Tellem and Warren LeGarie, WMG represents a cross-section of top players and coaches in the league. You know Wasserman is influential when he's listed ahead of No. 28, Hal Steinbrenner.
34. Kevin Plank, CEO and founder, Under Armour. Long a boutique to Nike's behemoth, Under Armour is making inroads in the basketball apparel market.
35. Mark Cuban, owner, Dallas Mavericks. How Cuban rebounds from insider trading charges will affect his image and influence.
38. Peter Moore, president, EA Sports. NBA Live, enough said.
44. Billy Hunter, executive director, NBA Players Association. Good news: Hunter has gotten his players the highest average salary in major American sports. Bad news: Owners are feeling the pinch, and negotiations on extending the agreement beyond 2011 will be contentious -- so much so that Hunter said recently he's preparing for another lockout.
46. Rick Dudley, president and CEO, Octagon. Agency represents numerous NBA players, including Chris Paul.
48. Michael Levine, co-head, CAA Sports. Stable of agents includes super-agent Leon Rose, who represents LeBron James.
Tags: Adam Silver, Adidas, Arn Tellem, Billy Hunter, CAA Sports, Casey Wasserman, CBS Sports, Charlie Denson, Dallas Mavericks, David Levy, David Stern, EA Sports, Hal Steinbrenner, Herbert Hainer, Jeffrey Kessler, Kevin Plank, LeBron James, Leon Rose, Mark Cuban, Michael Levine, NBA Players Association, Nike, Octagon, Peter Moore, Rick Dudley, Sean McManus, Tim Leiweke, Turner Sports, Under Armour, Warren LeGarie