Tag:Billy Hunter
Posted on: October 12, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 6:39 pm

Billy Hunter: NBA talks head to federal mediator

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

NBA labor talks are about to get an injection of Uncle Sam.

National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter told WFAN radio in New York on Wednesday that the NBA and its players union will continue talks with the help of a federal mediator next week. 

"We've agreed as of today that we're going to meet with a federal mediator on Monday," Hunter said.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that a "league source confirms the two sides are working on scheduling a meeting for early next week." Berger also reports further details of the mediation process here.

Sports law analyst Gabe Feldman said Wednesday that the presence of a mediator could reflect "a sense of urgency" and that it represents a "step in the right direction" for negotiations that had appeared to be at a standstill.

Hunter also said during the interview that he expects the two sides to reach a deal in time to play the league's traditional slate of games on Christmas and that the NBA and its players are "within the zone to make a deal" when it comes to the splitting of revenues, with the players currently offering to take 53 percent of the league's Basketball-Related Income and the owners offering a 47 percent cut to the players. System issues, Hunter maintained, continue to be the holdup. Those issues include the structure of the luxury tax system and the length of contracts.

Prior to Hunter's statements, no official talks between the two sides had been scheduled following a session in New York on Monday that failed to produce an agreement and resulted in the cancellation of the first two weeks of the NBA season.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:41 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 11:51 am

Stoudemire chimes in on an independent league

By Matt Moore

The players truly believe that they are the league. Not the franchises, logos, stadiums, coaches, management, or the game itself. And no, not the fans, though they do believe the fans are vital, obviously. No, they think the National Basketball Association is made up of players and it is the players who are the product. That's where the belief that they are entitled to more than 50 percent of the BRI comes from. And it's not bad logic, truth be told. It's debatable, but a sound starting place.

To that end, there have been discussions that, basically, if the owners are going to take away their league, the players will just start another. And lookee here, Amar'e Stoudemire's right on time promoting his new shoe (and throwing teammates under the deoderant bus, apparently) to chime in with where he sees things going if the lockout isn't resolved. From the New York Post: 
Amar'e Stoudemire said last night if the NBA lockout wipes out the season, he believes the players will form their own league instead of trying to catch on in Europe.

"If we dont go to Europe, we're going to start our own league, thats how I see it," the Knicks forward said. "It's very serious. It's a matter of us strategically coming up with a plan, a blueprint and putting it together. So we'll see how this lockout goes. If it goes one or two years, we've got to start our own league."
via Knicks Stoudemire says players will start own league - NYPOST.com.

 Setting aside the outright horror of that phrase "one or two years," it's not surprising that Stoudemire would go this route. He's an idealist, a dreamer (but he's not the only one). The players harnessing their own value and starting their own league sounds like a great idea. And it would be, if they had a consultant group to handle the entire process and a two year window just to get things operational. 

The big X-factors in this discussion are two entities. Nike and ESPN. Both companies have enough invested in the NBA and its players to create a paradox for themselves. They could benefit tremendously from putting the players, particularly those in the Nike stable, on a massive stage they themselves create, and have the industry connections to create a functioning league. They simply have the resources. At the same time, both enjoy a relationship with the NBA, one that they'll have to maintain after the lockout ends. They can't help the players here because they need the league and they can't help the league because they need the players.

Stoudemire did go on to say that he believes the lockout will end after the two weeks are lost, which is a nice thought. But after the events of the last week, it's hard to see either of Amar'e's dreams becoming a reality.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 11:18 am

The lockout damage is wider than most think

By Matt Moore

There's a growing movement that things aren't really that bad in this lockout. "The stadium workers are part-time," is part of the argument, without realizing the situation of so many of the actual jobs involved or how much of a percentage of income those jobs are. "The arenas will still be open for concerts" is another fun one, not factoring the 41 events a year that are now in jeopardy. But the real problem is all of the ways it filters down. Take television revenues, for instance. 

Each NBA team has a contract with a local TV provider for the games that usually includes pre- and post-game coverage. It's true the networks won't have to pay the teams for the games missed. But it also means those networks are having to replace the games with lesser content that won't sell high quality ad content. From the Los Angeles Times:  
While much of the attention on the lockouts impact on the media has focused on ESPN and TNT, much-harder hit will be local sports channels such as News Corp.s Fox Sports West, which carries the Los Angeles Lakers. Fox Sports and cable giant Comcast Corp. are two of the biggest operators of so-called regional sports networks.

"There is probably a lot more at stake at the regional sports network level than the national level," said Chris Bevilacqua, who heads Bevilacqua Media, a sports and media consulting firm.

While the networks are protected against a lengthy disruption of games, their ratings and ad revenue will be adversely affected and there will be a scramble to find programming to fill holes left by the loss of the NBA.

"We will air a mix of college sports, hockey, original programming and selective classic NBA games in the meantime," said a spokesman for Comcast, which has the local cable rights to seven NBA franchises, including the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
via NBA labor strife bad for ESPN, TNT and regional sports networks - latimes.com.

Some of the camera and production crews are likely on salary and will probably be kept by the local affiliates. But there are also countless part-time and contract workers that help in the production of a live sports broadcast. Those jobs? In danger. The impact will be felt throughout the community. Everything trickles down. The networks lose sponsor money. Sponsors lose a viable advertising source which impacts business even if they save the cost of advertising.

And there are other impacts, like bars and restaurants. From the AP:  
"I'm worried that my money situation is going to change — a lot," said waitress Zuly Molina, who works at a Hooters at the Bayside complex next to the Miami Heat's home arena. "It was a lot better last year. We had business before every game, during every game with people who couldn't get tickets watching in here, then after every game. Now it's gone, except for when they have a concert or something like that."
via Lockout's real pain felt beyond owners and players - Houston Chronicle.

You don't have to be a fan of Hooters to get where she's coming from. Waiters, waitresses, hosts, hostesses, bartenders, chefs, independent ticket vendors, independent merchandise retailers, the list goes on and on. The gap the two sides in the lockout are apart doesn't begin to hurt the parties involved on the level it impacts the people in the economies dependent on these games. They want to talk about how it's a business. Part of your responsibility in being a business that is publicly supported and in part funded through arenas is to be a responsible member of the local economy.

Truth is, we dont' know what the damage is going to be yet. We're just getting a taste. But hey, at least Micky Arison is eating well.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:56 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 5:52 am

Billy Hunter to hold NBPA meeting Friday in L.A.

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Time waits for no man. Or union of men.

One day after the NBA announced that it was cancelling the first two weeks of the regular season after failed negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association, ESPN.com reports that the union has scheduled its next major meeting to discuss the state of affairs.

Billy Hunter will meet with NBA players Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

After more than 12 hours of negotiations with the NBA Sunday and Monday proved fruitless, Hunter wants to begin meeting face-to-face with groups of players to explain the details of where the league and the union stand.

The NBPA's last major meeting was held in Las Vegas in September. Hunter and NBPA president Derek Fisher led the proceedings and handing out t-shirts that read "Stand" to roughly 35 players who attended. 

The NBPA had planned to hold a regional meetings in Los Angeles on Monday but Hunter's plans changed when the NBA and NBPA decided to engage in last-minute talks on Sunday that carried over into Monday.

Hunter enters the L.A. meeting as the bearer of bad news. With both economic and system issues separating the players and owners in their negotiations, the pressure from his rank-and-file is only going to increase as the players continue down the road toward missed paychecks. Hunter is tasked with plotting the next steps for the union while each two weeks that pass represent the possibility of another two weeks of the regular season cancelled. 

On Tuesday night, there were still no official meetings between the NBA and the NBPA scheduled.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:28 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:44 pm

Decertification may be unavoidable at this point

By Matt Moore

Now the wolves come a-hunting. 

For nearly a year, one of the goals of both sides in the labor dispute has been to avoid sending it to the courts. The NBA saw the mess that became of the NFL lockout once decertification came through, the amount spent on lawyer's fees and research, the ugly impact on PR. And probably somewhere in there, he also saw that there was a possibility, no matter how remote, that the league could lose. After the NFL lost the first decision, there must have been a shiver down David Stern's spine, even if he was aware and confident that it would be overturned and then upheld in appeal. If the NBA owners haven't failed to bargain in good faith, they've certaintly took bad faith out for a spin in Daddy's car and held its hand for a while. 

Similarly, Billy Hunter knew that decertification could cost his side everything. Yes, personally, he could lose his job and that's a pretty strong motivating factor for anyone, should he not return as head under the new union.  But it could also mean essentially getting the courts to affirm the league's power and advantage. The players would also have to afford court fees and the public scrutiny that would come with such a move, not to mention the fact that the players would look like "Lord of the Flies," lopping off their own head to dance around in anger around an owner effigy pyre. Hunter knew that the threat of decertification was more powerful than actually moving the debate into the court.

But now, after having the first twenty games cancelled, with paychecks that would be coming now not in a few weeks, with the league's image tarnished by greed, both sides are aware.

The wolves will be back, now. And this time the gates may not hold them out.

If ever there was a time for the agents who had been pushing for decertification and undermining the efforts of the union to say "They had their chance, now it's ours," that time is now. And Hunter may be at the point where it's better to join the barbarians at the gate than keep rallying the Roman Senators while they're stealing from each other's pocketbooks.  Hunter washing his hands of negotiation and aiming to take the owners down to the players' level might be the only way to truly put the fear of God back into Stern and his constituents in order to get movement towards compromise. There may be no other option. The players's side has been adamant that losing games doesn't scare them. You know who says things like that loudly? People who are scared of losing games.  The players know the score even if they won't admit it. They have little leverage, and the more paychecks that are missed, the worse it will get. The escrow money, sponsorship money, the overseas money won't last forever, won't cover the missing income forever, and at that point, things turn.

Not everyone thinks that this thing will rocket towards legal briefs, however. From Sports Illustrated:  
Lastly, you’ll hear lots of talk now about the union decertifying and filing an antitrust suit against the league. Some hard-line agents have pushed for this, and there is the perception that the NFL union’s move to decertify created a bit of temporary leverage, since any successful antitrust suit could wring billions in damages from the owners.

Unfortunately, the process would take at least a year to play out in full, and possibly longer. Court decisions, including those in the NFL’s case, leaned more toward the ownership/league side, and the timing of the NFL union’s decertification was much different than would be the case here. The NFL players union decertified much earlier, before their CBA had even expired, and they did so precisely because that soon-to-expire CBA included a deadline by which the union had to decertify.

The NBA union is already much later in the game. Its CBA expired more than 100 days ago, on July 1, and the players stand to lose so much salary over via a canceled season as to make it borderline worthless to pursue a strategy that basically guarantees that cancellation. It could still happen as a means of gaining some temporary “Holy crap!” leverage, but it would be a surprising move, even now.
via The Point Forward » Posts Key points as full season falls by the wayside «.

Unfortunately, that assumes that both sides are thinking strategicall, rationally, logically. Consider the following from long-time basketball scribe Jan Hubbard:  
As the percentages each side said were required for a deal haven gotten closer and closer, writers covering negotiations have been more and more dumbfounded that a middle point could not be found. By not playing basketball games in the preseason and now cancelling the first two weeks of the regular season, each side has sacrificed more than it would lose with the other side’s deal. So why not compromise?

And therein lies the problem – the assumption that logic applies; the belief that it is common sense to believe both sides to have common sense.

That has been incorrect, which leads to an obvious conclusion. This financial contest is not about dividing revenues fairly.

It’s about winning.
via Players Beware: It’s a Coldblooded Financial World | Sports Righting.
And that just about does it. It's true that both sides are so close to a deal, or at least close enough that it's closer than what a court decision would bring in terms of time. But that assumes that either side is interested in compromise. The players feel they've compromised enough, because they believe that the previous deal is a precedent that should be in play, despite this being a new agreement and not an extension or renegotiation. The owners believe they've compromised enough, because they took their demands from "Oh My God, are you out of your mind?!" to "You can't be serious... wait, you're serious?!" territory.

Neither side wants compromise. They want to win. 

And decertification and subsequent court battles may be the only way they can see to win outright. Who would want to compromise when you can win?

Oh, that's right. The fans. But they don't get a say.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 9:48 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 2:03 am

David Stern cancels first two weeks of NBA season

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

The National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association concluded more than seven hours of meetings on Monday in New York City without reaching an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement. As such, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that NBA commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the 2011-2012 regular season, spanning from Nov. 1 to Nov. 14.

Berger reports that Stern said that a "gulf" still separates the owners and players in their negotiations and that the two sides are "very, very far apart on virtually all issues."

Stern also confirmed that the cancellation of the first two weeks will prevent an 82-game regular season. In other words, there isn't sufficient time available later in the calendar to make up the cancelled games.

There are currently no further talks scheduled, Stern said, but the sides will continue to communicate.

Stern was joined in Monday's negotiations by NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver and a number of owners and legal advisers. The NBPA was represented by president Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter, among others.

Berger reported that league officials saw a number of sticking points, including: "contract length, length of CBA, use of exceptions by [luxury] tax-paying teams and [the luxury] tax levels and the frequency of the [luxury] tax." Those are all significant issues that will require extended negotiation to resolve.

Fisher mostly stuck to what has become his mantra in recent weeks. "I continue to believe that we've been more than fair and reasonable in our approach," he said. "This is what we anticipated would happen, and here we are."

He also admitted the pain of lost salary will be felt by his constituency. "Obviously not a good feeling for anyone, " Fisher said."This is not just about dollars and cents for players. It's about a system for our guys to operate under."

Hunter maintained that the lost income will not shake the players' solidarity. "Unfortunately, maybe we need to miss a few games for them to know there's resolve among the players," he said, according to Berger.
The NBA issued the following press release on Monday evening to formally announce the cancellation.

The NBA announced today that it has canceled the first two weeks of the 2011-12 regular season because a new collective bargaining agreement has not been reached with the National Basketball Players Association. This cancellation includes all games originally scheduled to be played through November 14.

"Despite extensive efforts, we have not been able to reach a new agreement with the players’ union that allows all 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship while fairly compensating our players," NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said.

Refunds plus interest are available for all NBA season-ticket holders for all preseason and regular-season games that are canceled.

Earlier Monday, the NBPA launched a Twitter campaign called "Let us play," hoping to curry public favor and maintain solidarity amongst its ranks.

Monday's meeting was an extension of last-ditch talks that began Sunday afternoon. Stern set Monday as the deadline for cancelling the first two weeks of the season when talks broke down on Tuesday of last week.

This post will update with the latest on the NBA lockout.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:18 am

The Lockout List for Monday's talks

By Matt Moore

The league and players met for five hours Sunday and nada, zip, zero, zilch. Not a deal, not a framework, not a conceptual agreement, not a tentative agreement, not even "progress." We're just guessing here, but we have this image of them each sitting there like it's study hall, passing notes to their friends and not really talking about anything of substance. Apparently BRI never even came up

That's right. The biggest issue remaining on the table, and they didn't even touch it.

So what has to happen for a dea on a new CBA to happen today and to avoid the loss of regular season games as David Stern promised there would be without a deal Monday? Here's what it looks like.

  1. Resolve revenue sharing. SI reports that revenue sharing remains the biggest systemic, non-BRI issue on the table. This is tricky territory, as it's not something the NBA even wants to be talking about. They don't even want it on the table. But apparently they've let it on and both sides are squabbling over what it will look like. The biggest hangup is likely that the players' best friend in the BRI and cap issues, the large market owners, are the ones that will pump the brakes on revenue sharing. The players want an extensive system, because the more money is redistributed on the owners' side, the less money they'll have to contribute to recovering losses, hypothetically. 
  2. The 12-foot, sabretoothed, hulking monster in the room that is BRI. The owners aren't budging on 50/50. The players won't move off 53 percent. Either one side's going to have to bend, or they'll have to find some sort of compromise in-between. Maybe it's the owners taking 52 to get the player down a percent. Maybe they split the difference. But neither side is even open to that possibility. If talks turn to this issue on Monday afternoon and neither side is willing to move at all on their number, it's going to be a real short meeting. 
  3. Get a framework, then get the votes. Even if the smaller parties can get a conceptual framework in place, complete with BRI and everything else, they still have to get approval from their constituents for a vote. Say the owners talk the players down to 51 percent. All it takes is one leaked quote from an owner about how they knew the players would cave, and then Kevin Garnett turns that into a rallying cry, and then the agents hit the roof and start calling for decertification again and the whole thing blows up. Say the players get the owner sup to 53 percent through concessions, but one of them turns out to be a sticking point for one of the owners and the rest of the league sticks with their guy who says he can't do it. There are a million ways this blows up once the reasaonable grown-ups negotiating the deal now get done. 
  4. Get a vote, get a timeline, get the paperwork done, start the offseason. 
All of this within the next 21 days. 

So as you can see, we're kind of up against it here.  
Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:09 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 2:10 pm

Fisher and Hunter send another letter to players

Posted by Royce Young

Evidently, Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher like writing letters. Because after Tuesday's labor meeting wrapped that potentially brought the two sides close to a deal, they sent out another one.

Obtained by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com (read the full thing here), basically it's this: Stand together, we're not backing down, we'll get the deal we want if we hold firm. It says, "Yesterday, the owners gave us an opportunity to back down. We refused."

Some could read that as, "Yesterday, the owners gave us an opportunity to make a deal and therefore save the season. We refused." Depends on your perspective, I suppose.

The letter really focuses on the crux of yesterday's negotiations: BRI (Basketball Related Income). Here's the player's offer that they like: They reduce their share of BRI to 52.4 percent and gradually increase that to 54 percent over the six-year deal, which would be an average of 53 percent. The letter makes sure to point out that this offer would shift an average of $185 million per year to the owners' side, which is $1.1 billion over six years.

"We feel this offer -- which would involve no rollbacks of existing contracts and maintain the current Salary Cap and Luxury Tax levels -- is fair and addresses the owners' complaints," the letter said.

The letter addresses the owners' original 47 percent BRI split, but then acknowledges the last-gasp 50-50 split that David Stern referenced in his presser.

"After seriously considering whether we should proceed down this path, our group determined not to do so," the letter said. "Recognizing all the owners' arguments about the state of the business and the condition of the economy, in our view, the owners can and should share more of the record revenues our players generate. Reducing our share of BRI by 7 points to 50% -- a level we have not received since the early 1990's -- is simply not a fair split. We refused to back down. As we have done since the beginning, we again indicated a willingness to compromise, and asked the owners to do the same. They refused."

So basically: We refused, they refused and basically, we have until Monday to un-refuse so that the season starts on time. Here's the thing: Someone's got to bend at some point. It will happen. Whether it's the players or the owners, someone's coming up or going down with their offer. It's not like there won't ever be basketball again. But the deeper it goes and once games start getting missed, the owners may try and go back to some of the bigger issues such as a hard cap, salary rollbacks or non-guaranteed contracts. So the negotiations have sort of hit a crucial point.

Here's how the letter concludes, which doesn't exactly make me jump for joy:
As the day ended, each side felt that they had gone as far as they could. We will continue to review the numbers and assess the various proposals, but we will hold firm until we can get a fair deal. While this negotiation is far from over, we cannot now say when it will resume again in earnest. For today, the players made a stand. It was the right stand to make, for ourselves and for the generations of players to follow. Hard work and sacrifice by both sides will hopefully end this soon, and the owners will open the doors and let us come to work. In the meantime, we ask you to maintain the same strength and focus you have exhibited since the beginning. We must demonstrate our unity, especially as we expect the league to announce the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season next Monday if no further progress is made. The owners must know that the players are firm, educated and resolved to getting a fair deal.
By all appearances, the players aren't going to budge. Things change when money starts getting lost though. And that's what's going to happen if a deal isn't done by Monday. The stakes will be raised. It's just a matter of who's moving first. Clearly the players think it will be the owners.

As Berger has reported, the two sides are closer than they're letting on. A gap of only about $80 million per year separates them right now. That's $2.6 million per team, or in other words, the 12th man on pretty much every roster. This can be done. It should be done. They have less than a week to make it happen.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com