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NBA Players Association Plays Hardball with Stern & NBA

By Daniel Strickland on November 14, 2011.

The time has come for Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter and the NBA players to cut a deal to end a fight they just can’t win. Or not.

Julie Jacobson - AP

I’m pleased to hear that the National Basketball Players Association has finally decided to man up and play hardball with David Stern and team owners, threatening to dissolve the union and pursue antitrust lawsuits against the league. Maybe this will get Stern and NBA owners’ attention.

Remember, the players didn’t want a lockout, the owners did.

Stern and the league have been playing hardball with the players since negotiations began 21 months ago, by proposing to decrease the players’ share of basketball-related income (BRI) from 57% to less than 50%.

NBA Players Reject Current NBA Offer

Graphic courtesy of USA TODAY

I’m reminded of a remark made by David Robinson during the 1998 NBA lockout:

“[NBA owners] don’t negotiate. They tell you how it will be, and they don’t want to listen to the players.”

Sounds familiar, huh?

Last February, David Stern cried poverty, claiming that the league would lose almost $400 million — a claim that has been debunked by Nate Silver (“Calling Foul on N.B.A.’s Claims of Financial Distress“) and others — then demanded to renege on the current collective bargaining agreement.

Nate Silver breaks down the numbers and points out:

Under the league’s current collective bargaining agreement, player salaries are strictly tied to league revenues. In fact, because of a little-known provision in the labor agreement, players must return a portion of their salaries if they exceed 57 percent of league revenues, as has happened in several recent seasons. The portion of revenues earned by N.B.A. players is similar to that of the other major sports leagues and has been stable over the past decade.

Or as Etan Thomas (11-year NBA veteran, executive first vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, active member of the players’ negotiating team) puts it:

If your boss came to you and said,

“Listen, I know we are coming off of record overall profits as far as overall revenue and the most lucrative year in history but we have made some individual decisions that we are not happy with and we need you to take massive pay cuts. We need you to agree to construct the rules so that we can no longer make those mistakes, and we want you to make it easier for us to get rid of you if we choose.”

What would your reaction be? Would you say “Some money is better than no money,” or would you gather the rest of your fellow employees and stand up for yourselves?

I think we all know what our own reaction would be, placed in a similar situation. That is why I stand with Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, the Spurs and the rest of the players, not Peter Holt, David Stern, Mark Cuban or Michael Jordan.

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