Posted on: November 21, 2011 9:02 am
The following was provided to media outlets including CBSSports.com on Sunday, November 20th by the Executive Director of the NBA Coaches Association.
An Urgent Call to the NBA, the NBPA and its Players for a Truce and Return to Talks, from a Veteran of the Business of Professional Basketball
By Michael H. Goldberg, Executive Director NBA Coaches Association
“Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone…” Joni Mitchell (Big Yellow Taxi)
I have been involved in the sport of professional basketball for over 35 years. In 1973, I was appointed General Counsel to the American Basketball Association, a great league but a financial disaster. In 1978, shortly after four of the ABA’s teams staggered into the safe harbor of the NBA (then itself a league with financial issues), I began my assignment as Executive Director of the NBA Coaches Association (all Head and Assistant Coaches plus alumni) and have served in this capacity ever since.
I’m urging this call for an immediate return to discussions by the parties solely as a veteran of the business of the sport and not as a representative or spokesman of the NBA Coaches or any other constituency. As someone who has “seen it all” in the NBA (and other professional sports), I urge the principals involved in the current labor dispute to immediately back away from the precipice, get back to the bargaining table, and redouble their efforts to resolve the current conflict and get a deal done without delay.
The upcoming NBA season must be saved. To do otherwise will cause a self-inflicted economic blow to an enterprise that over the years through the hard work of players, team owners and the League Office has become a great global brand, but, like every business operating in today’s fragile economic landscape, one that is more susceptible to “decline and fall.”
We are currently in a global economic crisis such as has not been seen in any of our lifetimes. Only individuals wearing three-inch thick rose-colored glasses can believe that sports, and NBA basketball in particular, are and will in the future be immune from these forces. Great companies with names that our parents looked upon as having the safety and sustainability of Fort Knox have only survived thanks to bankruptcy or government bailout, while many others have disappeared altogether. Tens of thousands of employees working for these “untouchable” companies for years thought they were set for life, only to find themselves out of work and scrambling to figure out Plan B.
In this new and dangerous economic environment there are no guarantees that what worked in the past can work now. We all need to concede that the NBA does not operate in a financial bulletproof bubble. After months of discussion, it has become apparent that a solution to the current situation means sacrifice and change. The parties have moved in that direction. Now is not the time to step back and harden positions. Litigation and the “courts” are not the answer – “been there and done that.” Let the parties have the courage to make a deal, even if it requires taking some risks and accepting the unpalatable for the short term, so as to ensure that going forward there will be a viable and robust NBA business, one that is able to withstand the current financial environment and further prosper.
Partial or lost seasons are a huge mistake and a blow to any sport that requires years of painful business rebuilding to get back on track. We all know this and know that damage has already taken place. The recent lost NHL season is an example whereby the end result was a damaged sport and fallout that fractured its union and cost hundreds of millions of dollars lost by the league, its players and its teams, to say nothing of the financial pain suffered by non-player (league and team) employees, suppliers and allied businesses. Similar results have affected every sport that has shut down due to labor/management issues.
There is no time to waste. History has proven that all sports labor conflicts are ultimately solved. No doubt all sides are concerned about their financial well-being and rightly so. But everyone involved must now think beyond their own interests, check out the daily financial headlines, and work towards a negotiated solution now. Short of this all parties will risk killing the goose that lays so many golden eggs for so many connected with it. Let’s not commit a “Flagrant 2” to a business that can ill afford it.
Posted on: November 20, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 1:45 pm
By Matt Moore
In an interview with Yahoo Sports, Paul Pierce says that the next step in the process is on the owners, despite the players having removed the possibility of collective bargaining by dissolving their union:
Q: Do the players or owners have to take the next step to renew labor talks?via Paul Pierce: Players needed to make stand - NBA - Yahoo! Sports.
It's interesting because while the league said, through David Stern, that "collective bargaining is over," the players were the ones who declined to offer a counter-proposal to the owners and instead disclaimed interest, dissolving the union. The last proposal on the table was the league's, the 50/50 split the players rejected. So to say it's on the owners is a bit strange.
But on the flip side, the players may consider their decision to file suit a response in and of itself. Basically "we don't want your deal, here's our counter-proposal, you guys deal with a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit, how about them apples?" So if the league wants a response, that's the response. Unfortunately, it's going to take the league making its first real step back from the full-court press they've applied for five months for them to offer another proposal, or even a bargaining session.
So, yeah, things are going great, you guys!
Posted on: November 18, 2011 7:02 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 9:19 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
We're well into the fifth month of the the NBA lockout with no end in sight. If you're not blaming NBA commissioner David Stern by now, either your name is Adam Silver or you just don't care about American professional basketball.
You can add Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger to the long, long, long list of people who believe Stern is responsible for causing harm to his own league by mishandling the ongoing labor negotiations.
In an interview with NBC SportsTalk, Granger, formerly the Pacers' player representative to the union, points the finger squarely at Stern.
"Definitely let a little upset about it. David Stern, to his credit, he has grown the NBA. But as far as with the negotiations and where they have went in the last six or eight months, I don't think he's done a good job of conveying to the owners what's the most important thing for an NBA team, for an NBA season. And, for the NBA as a whole organization, the lockout has really damaged the game. How much, I don't think we know yet, but we'll find out. As commissioner, I just don't think he should have let it get that far, to the point where it is right now."As commissioner, Stern is paid to take these lumps. Granger's criticism is more than fair, and it represents a sentiment that's surely shared by thousands of fans across the country. Stern is the boss, this is going down on his watch, and the buck stops with him. He is expected to be the answer, not part of the problem.
Granger makes a key assumption though. His statements imply that Stern had the power and influence over a majority of the league's owners to save a full 82-game season if he simply put his mind to it or thought that approach was prudent. We would all assume, from a distance, that a league's commissioner would want his league to play its scheduled games, but the more we learn about the hard-line ownership contingent the more we realize that overhauling the league's financial system is a much higher priority than saving an 82-game season and, potentially, even playing a season at all this year.
It's quite possible that Stern wants games just as badly as Granger. It's quite possible that he fears the potential damage to the league even more than Granger does. So if we are going to blame Stern, let's blame him for the right reasons.
Let's blame him for reportedly making promises of profitability to owners that recently bought into the league. Let's blame him for agreeing to the last collective bargaining agreement which allegedly created a league that couldn't produce profits despite record revenues. Let's blame him for being unable to build and hold a consensus among his owners. Let's blame him for still failing to communicate the league's revenue sharing goals and philosophies clearly. Let's blame him for ratcheting up the ugly rhetoric. Let's blame him for waging a personal war of words with union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler. Let's blame him for delaying the beginning of true negotiations until way too late in the game. Let's blame him for calling in sick earlier this fall on a day when negotiations blew up. Let's blame him for each and every ultimatum and threat he's made. Let's blame him for making offers and then taking them off the table. Let's blame him for trying to shift the blame to agents. Let's blame him for repeatedly talking down to the players.
But let's stop short of blaming him alone for the damage that is being done to the NBA. For sure, there is blood on his hands, lots of it. But this has spun out of his control; he can't solve this by himself. In the end, let's settle for blaming him for not swallowing his immense pride right now so that he can proactively do his part to fashion a solution. There's still time, after all, to make the damage done to the league a thing of the past.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 2:54 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 4:38 pm
By Matt Moore
Billy Hunter has had his turn at the wheel, and drove the players off a cliff. David Stern put the owners into the high gear they wanted and now they're wedged on a fire hydrant. When they say "the collective bargaining process has broken down," what the mean is "we broke collective bargaining."
It's time for someone else to take over.
Clearly Stern has lost the ability to keep his extremist elements in check. Michael Jordan, who helped draft Sean May and who decided a worthy investment was professional basketball in Charlotte after it had been burned? Dan Gilbert, the comic sans wiz who signed off on bringing superstar talent next to LeBron like Wally Szczerbiak, Ben Wallace, and Mo Williams? Robert Sarver, who if you go out for dinner with you have to make sure he doesn't sell your entree for cash an a meal to be chosen later? These are the guys running the show? Stern's legacy will be dicatated by how this ends; it's already been impacted by how far it's come.
Hunter barely had a consensus. After months of players asking about decertification and why they weren't pursuing it sooner, he elects to disclaim interest at a meeting with three player reps missing entirely, most of the reps woefully unaware of what the deal meant, without the support of most of the agents, and without even allowing for the possibility of a vote. In short, union leadership lost sight of how to connect with and communicate issues to the players. Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported this week that the union denied player reps a hard copy of the owners' proposal two weeks ago. They need someone who the players can trust.
So forget Paul Allen sitting in with stone-faced breathing, forget Peter Holt trying to play the hardliner he's not really, and forget Dan Gilbert and the gut he wants them to trust. Forget Derek Fisher who really has only been saddled with an impossible game to win, forget "Money Mase" Roger Mason and his accidental tweets, forget Kevin Garnett and his spittle. Let's get some guys in that represent both factions to get a deal in place.
On a podcast with Bill Simmons, Ric Bucher and Stein were wondering about who could take over that would truly represent either side. Bucher briefly suggested Jerry Colangelo. And in short, that's genius.
Colangelo has owned the Suns, the Diamondbacks, the Mercury, and the Rattlers of the AFL. His tenures weren't always great and were sometimes disastrous, but he also has built teams with success, worked with superstars, and has been in the league forever. He's current head of USA Basketball. He's able to put the power of the game first while also representing ownership. He has the players' respect and can communicate with them, while also working with the lunatics running the NBA asylum currently.
You want an endorsement? How about the President of the United States, told Colangelo (via the Arizona Republic):
"He looked over to me, held out his hand and said, 'Jerry, you've got to help solve this lockout. We've got to get hoops going again.'via President Barack Obama wants his basketball.
But who's he going to negotiate with? Who can possibly represent the players, given that no one player has the background or political strength to do it? Shane Battier certainly has the mind, but not the support. Kevin Garnett has the support but if they have the idea to send him into a bargaining room as lead negotiatior someone needs to tranq him or we're not having basketball this decade. So who on earth could do it?
We need to go Worldwide.
William Wesley, power broker to the stars. Firmly in LeBron's camp? Sure. But he's also in with Rip Hamilton, Ron Artest, well, ok, really nearly every player in the league. He's about brand expansion and the power of the athlete. He brings with him clout from connections with the shoe companies, a history with Michael Jordan, and a savvy about himself that few possess. Wesley doesn't have to be an economist or an expert in labor relations, he's got Kessler the pit bull and the now-defunct union's economist to help. All he needs to do is weild power and leverage. He has the clout that Hunter does not.
The agents will, of course, go berserk on this idea. But it's the players that matter, and the majority of those players have a positive regard for Wes. They will be represented, they will be informed, they will have a voice they believe in.
Maybe those two can find a way around the road blocks that are holding up the season. Hunter and Stern can keep lobbing back ultimatums, insults, and law suits while Colangelo and Wesley try and find a way out of this mess. One thing's for sure.
They can't do any worse.
Posted on: November 17, 2011 12:24 pm
By Matt Moore
Always good to have the support and solidarity of your peers.
The Orlando Sentinel spoke with Dave Andreychuk, former NHL player and current Tampa Bay Lightning executive about the NHL lockout that busted an entire season with the owners getting the same kind of reset the NBA owners are now aiming for. Andreychuk says that standing up for your profession just isn't worth it. Because you'll lose anyway.
"If players think its better to sit out the season, let me tell you, its not. Its just not," Andreychuk says. "In the end, it will be worse."via NBA Lockout: Former NHL player Dave Andreychuk tells current NBA players: Sitting out the season will only make it worse - OrlandoSentinel.com.
Pretty uncool statements from one former player to another. But his point that the players are going to lose anyway, that's the reason so many people were urging the players to at least return the offer with modifications instead of disclaiming interest or decertifying. The players have put themselves in a position where if they don't win a court decision, several of them consecutively, actually, or if the threat thereof does not spook the owners, they'll lose everything. They'll have their collective bargaining heads caved in when they recertify to approve the deal.
But still, you'd think that a player that has been down that road that has fought that battle would at least publicly support another professional athlete. Maybe Maybe he and Michael Jordan can go bowling and talk about what it's like to bail on your former colleagues.
It's not that Andreychuk's wrong. He's not wrong. He's right. He just shouldn't say it. Then again, apparently no one else is talking straight to the players about what their situation is.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 2:30 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 3:23 pm
Posted by Royce Young
When Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher and 60 some-odd players stood behind a podium Monday afternoon after a players' meeting, most expected them to announce they'd be putting the league's proposal to a vote. Or at least, announce they're making a counter.
But that didn't happen. Instead, it was doomsday.
I think you, probably like me, were left wondering one thing: Why? What are the players thinking? The chances of them actually winning a lawsuit are slim. The chances of them recouping their losses in a new collective bargaining agreement are probably even slimmer. And yet instead of pushing forward and trying to push the pressure back on the league and owners to accept their revised deal, they decided to blow it up. They didn't even try and mask it. During their press conference they even said that. They wanted to completely detonate the current negotiations.
Because players are emotional. This isn't a negotiation anymore. It's a fight. The owners have always tried to approach this as a business deal and the players met them on that -- until now. Consider this quote from Kevin Durant over the weekend:
“I know we get paid handsomely but we deserve to fight for something that’s right,” he told HoopsWorld. “We feel that they’re trying to strong-arm us and back us into a corner just to accept the deal. Of course they’re going to bluff and show the fans, try to put the fans against us like they’re the good guys and we’re the bad guys.
“I think getting what you deserve and fighting for something you believe is right is something all the players really care about,” he continued. “Of course we enjoy the fans, we like the fans that come and support us. They’re the reason why we’re playing this game, the reason why we continue to play this game but at some point you have to fight for what’s right and we can’t get bullied.”
That, says it all. In a game setting, if Nene throws a shoulder into Kendrick Perkins, Perkins is not only going to shove him back, but Durant and the rest of the team is going to back up their teammate. It's just their nature. That's what's happening here. David Stern just gave Derek Fisher an elbow. And here come his teammates.
Billy Hunter said on a podcast that this has become a "moral" issue for the players. At the time, it just seemed like talk to try and scare the league. But clearly it's not. This is an emotional thing. And players are extremely emotional. They live off it. It's what drives them. They're competitive, emotional and passionate. Prideful.
So why would we expect anything less from them now, especially after they were backed into a corner by David Stern's ultimatum? The players wanted to stand and fight instead of just taking their medicine from the rich guys running the league.
I think Jerry Stackhouse said it well while ripping Derek Fisher. "Players are emotional. Players get emotional," he said. "So no, I don't necessarily, particularly want Derek Fisher or any of the executive committee negotiating a contract for me."
I mean, Hunter actually called the hard salary cap a "blood issue," meaning, I guess, that the players would rather die than give in to that. That's what the owners are negotiating against. It's nothing really all that new to them as they've haggled over contracts and extensions with players for years, but now the players are collectively fighting. At least that's the appearance.
I understand taking a stand for what you think is right. A tip of the cap to that. But this isn't a fight against poverty or injustice to children or something. This is about business. A $4 billion one, in fact. One in which the employees are paid more than $5 million per year annually on average.
At some point, the players are going to have to approach it that way. I'm all for doing what you think is right. If the players were being greedy, they would've just accepted this deal, cashed their paychecks and forgot all about it. But instead, they're sacrificing for future generations of players. They're taking a hit not for themselves necessarily, but to one, set a new precedent that says the players won't be bullied and two, give the future players of the NBA a decent system to play in.
But this is a business decision. And sometimes, looking it as a moral dilemma isn't what's wise. Because in the end, players typically end up getting screwed in these situations. It's a bad idea to operate in this atmosphere running on emotion. You have to always keep your head and make sure every move makes sense not just in terms of saving face, but also actual dollars and cents. You can't let pride interrupt what's wise. That's a challenge every busisnessperson has to face on a daily basis.
This court battle is exactly what David Stern called it: It's a tactic. Nothing more. The players want a deal. The owners want a deal. Nobody wants to go to court and actually sue for damages. That's not the plan here, though if both sides remain stubborn, it will be. What both sides want is to get back to playing basketball. It's just all about playing cards right now and throwing out bets that hopefully force the other side to give a little. They very well may have pushed all-in there and could lose every chip they have, but they're not going to fold. They're going to go down in a blaze.
Why didn't the players just take the deal and move on? It's the best deal they'll probably get and despite it not being fair one bit, it might not matter. The reason is because that's not how they're bred. That's not what's in them. They aren't just going to give up. You back a professional athlete into a corner and tell him he has to lose and he's going to fight back. It's like Walter White in Breaking Bad. The players are trying to tell the league, "I am the one who knocks." It's all about grabbing the upper hand.Don't wonder why the players didn't just take the NBA's offer. Because the reason should be obvious. It's just not what they do.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 12:08 pm
By Matt Moore
The NBPA is dead. Long live the NBPA. But now that the union has disclaimed interest and decided to pursue litigation independently as players and not a union, what does that actually mean? We spoke with labor relations and litigation expert Steve Luckner of Coughlin Duffy to try and make sense of all this dissolving nonsense.
What did the NBPA need to do to dissolve the union by disclaiming interest versus decertifying?
In short, Luckner says, say so. "The primary benefit is speed," Luckner says, "When you have a decertification the players have to vote and it takes place before the NLRB it's a time thing. By disclaiming, they just need to get the player reps to vote to do so, then notify the league." The remnants of the NBPA will also have to file with the Department of Labor and the IRS, but those elements do not have to be completed prior to gaining status as having disclaimed. They said they were disclaiming interest, and there they have.
Avoiding the 45-day waiting period in-between now and an NLRB rulling which would have been necessary for the players under decertification allows them to pursue litigation faster, which is their primary objective. A fast resolution through the courts or the bargaining table is key for this now-non-collective that doesn't have unlimited funds to survive with the loss of paychecks.
What are the impacts of disclaiming interest?
We touched on the litigation aspect in detail on Tuesday. But Luckner adds that there are some tertiary elements of the dissolution. The organization formerly known as the NBPA no longer has the abilty to regulate agents, and it cannot file grievances on behalf of players. The assumption with disclaiming is that you intend to do so for as long as you want, but the common thought is that once the lockout ends, the union will reform for precisely these functions. If they were not to do so, they would be unable to file such grievances as their case on behalf of Latrell Sprewell, Ron Artest, or Gilbert Arenas. That's not a power the players want to lose, most likely.
SI.com notes that the agents angle is interesting because player poaching could become an issue in this new wild, wild west the players find themselves in. There's no governing body ruling over player or agent matters, and as such, anything goes.
What's the "sham" argument?
So the NBPA has decertified, washed its hands of itself. It no longer represents the players. And yet Billy Hunter is on the legal team along with David Boies, filing suit on behalf of Carmelo Anthony, Leon Powe, Kevin Durant, and others, all on different teams. Furthermore, every legal expert CBSSports.com has spoken with has regarded this move as a negotiating tactic, with Boies even telling reporters including Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that the goal is to settle this in negotiation. At that point, most everyone assumes that just like the NFLPA, the NBPA will reform.
Due to these circumstances, one area the league will attempt to attack the players' litigation is by claiming this is a "sham" disclaimer of interest. In short, they're still acting like a union, they're still planning on being a union, they're just saying they're not a union right now.
There has not been a clear precedent on whether a. intent is a matter to consider when regarding decertification or disclaimer of interest, nor b. whether disclaim of interest/decertification is a "light switch" you can flip on and off. Luckner says it's unlikely the court will argue with the first element.
"I don't see the court necessarily attacking the players' motivation," Luckner says, but he adds "while holding them to the letter of the law."
Holding them to the letter of the law means the union cannot act as a regulator on behalf of the players. They've washed their hands, so they have to be fine if the players get their hands dirty. One possible ramification of the the disclaimer of interest is that players and the league can negotiate independently. Technically speaking, the players or owners could make a deal with the other side, just to sign themselves. That's obviously not going to happen, on either side. But as paychecks dwindle, Luckner notes that players could get desperate to regain their paychecks or in pursuit of playing in their short career window.
The trick here becomes when the National Basketball Trade Association, or whatever loose organization that is coordinating the players' legal efforts attempt to corral those players. In that case, if discovered, the court would hold the liable parties in violation of the disclaimer. In short, if you're going to say you're not a union, you can't act like one. The league's response will be to challenge the disclaimer of interest itself, saying it doesn't matter if the union says it's not a union if it's still acting like a union.
These are just a handful of issues facing the players and the league with this course of action. It's messy, and complicated, and issues and rebuttals and motions will stack on top of each other and take months to sort out. Meanwhile more games are canceled and we continue to wait to see if reason enters anywhere into this conversation.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 10:55 am
By Matt Moore
Herb Kohl is one of the owners who has pushed for the proposals that have resulted in the ongoing NBA lockout, according to multiple reports. The popular narrative goes as follows: small-market owners are tired fo being doormats and losing money on their teams so they want a system that guarantees profitability and levels the playing field for them to compete with the Lakers and Celtics of the world. There's a lot of variation in that depending on who you talk to (for example, Ted Leonsis who owns the Washington D.C. Wizards is one such "small-market" owner), but that's the basic storyline being told by many of the reports.
If Kohl is on that side of the fence, though, it's a stunning reversal from public statements he's made in the past regarding what it means to own the Bucks. From Bucks blog Bucksketball:
“I’m not in this business to make any annual profits,” Kohl said after dismissing General Manager Larry Harris in 2008. “The value of the asset fortunately has appreciated over the years. On an annual basis, it’s a money-losing proposition. I’m in it because I love the sport, I love the competition and I love winning.”via Herb Kohl’s actions may be betraying his words |.
Bucksketball notes that in the past, Kohl has been a staunch supporter of an increase in revenue sharing, citing MLB's model. So you can more easily understand this position than the caricature image of billionaire owners' gigantic maws trying to devour everything in existance. It's not unreasonable to want to be able to compete when you are at a disadvantage. You can argue the merits of whether or not good teams in big markets that make huge profits should have to share with their brethren, but this is at least something fans can agree with.
But then, as always, there's the money.
In that above quote, Kohl says he's not in this business to make any annual profits. And that's right decent of him. Having owners that just want to win for themselves and the fans really should be what professional sports, and in particular the NBA, is about. If you're trying to make a lot of money by owning an NBA team, to borrow a phrase, you're doing it wrong. That's not the path. So why then the revenue split tactics? Why shake the players down for 50/50 BRI or lower?
Furthermore, why isn't this an internal issue with the league? If you're looking to change the system, change the system. The players at any point after, say, August would happily have granted systemic changes in exchange for the BRI cut back. And a better revenue sharing system, a legitimate one that actually accounts for the unfathomable riches that come with each team's independent television deal, would more than have at least started the teams on the way back to profitability.
But again, we ask. What's this about, profitability or competitive balance? The league wants to maintain that it's about both. But in reality, what the NBA really needs is for its owners to decide a vision for their own ownership and stick with it.