No NBA this year as labor talks blocked
NEW YORK - The Associated Press
NBA Commissioner David Stern voiced his anger for the decision of the Players Union, headed by Derek Fisher. Stern says the union is trying ‘to see if they can scare the NBA owners.’
NBA players rejected the league’s latest offer on Nov. 14 and began disbanding their union, likely jeopardizing the season.
“We’re prepared to file this antitrust action against the NBA,” union executive director Billy Hunter said. “That’s the best situation where players can get their due process.” And that’s a tragedy as far as NBA Commissioner David Stern is concerned.
“It looks like the 2011-12 season is really in jeopardy,” Stern said in an interview on the ESPN network. “It’s just a big charade. To do it now, the union is ratcheting up I guess to see if they can scare the NBA owners or something. That’s not happening.”
During oral arguments on Nov. 2, the NBA asked U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe to decide the legality of its lockout, but he was reluctant to wade into the league’s labor mess. Gardephe has yet to issue a ruling.
Stern, who is a lawyer, had urged players to take the deal on the table, saying it’s the best the NBA could offer and advised that decertification is not a winning strategy.
Players ignored that warning, choosing instead to dissolve its union, giving them a chance to win several billion dollars in triple damages in an antitrust lawsuit. “This is the best decision for the players,” union president Derek Fisher said. “I want to reiterate that point, that a lot of individual players have a lot of things personally at stake in terms of their careers and where they stand. And right now they feel it’s important - we all feel it’s important to all our players, not just the ones in this room, but our entire group - that we not only try to get a deal done for today but for the body of NBA players that will come into this league over the next decade and beyond.”
Fisher, flanked at a press conference by dozens of players including Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, said the decision was unanimous. But there were surely players throughout the league who would have preferred union leadership put the proposal to a vote of the full membership instead.
Players and owners have been talking for some two years but couldn’t reach a deal, with players feeling the league’s desires to improve competitive balance would hurt their free agency options. Beyond that, the owners’ desire for a 50-50 split of basketball-related income, after players were guaranteed 57 percent under the old deal, meant players were shifting at least $280 million per year to the owners.
Financially, both sides have lost hundreds of millions because of the games missed and the countless more that will be wiped out before play resumes. Team employees are losing money, and in some cases, jobs. And both the NBA and NBPA eventually must regain the loyalty of an angered fan base that wonders how the league reached this low point after such a strong 2010-11 season.