The 30 NBA player representatives voted unanimously to reject the league’s most recent labor offer on Monday. The union has filed a “Disclaimer of Interest,” meaning it is no longer the negotiating entity for the players. This will allow the players to pursue legal action against the owners for unfair labor practices or antitrust violations.
The union chose not to decertify fully because the disclaimer of interest process is quicker both in and out. It allows the players to proceed with legal action within a matter of days, as opposed to a 45-60 day process of decertification prior to any such lawsuit. The disclaimer of interest is also easier to reverse, meaning if the sides want to resume negotiations, that could be done in a much more timely fashion.
According to union executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher, the owners’ offers have actually gotten worse, not better, over the past few weeks. The players conceded on many issues including a 50/50 split of basketball related income (as opposed to 57% for the players in the previous deal) but they felt that the current offer was too detrimental in terms of system issues, to the point that it was untenable despite the general agreement on money.
Among other things, the owners most recent offer would have severely limited the ability of teams to spend over the salary cap by creating a much more substantive penalty to tax paying teams. This not only limits the earning potential of mid level players, but it also significantly restricts their movement opportunities. In short, because fewer teams will be spending money, players will have fewer options on where to play and lower contracts regardless of their destination.
While chances to save at least part of the season still exist, prospects look bleak. Hunter said during the union press conference that negotiations had “completely broken down” and that the players “had given enough.” He later told NBA TV reporter David Aldridge there is a “high probability” that the entire season will be lost. Whether that is his actual belief or a negotiating tactic remains to be seen.
David Stern, too, has returned to his famous rhetoric. The NBA commissioner told ESPN that the union’s ”timing isn’t very good, and their rhetoric is almost humorous.” He also called the disclaimer of interest a “big charade.” In a statement, Stern added “there will be a collective bargaining agreement, but the 2011-2012 season is now in jeopardy.”
Unfortunately, with this singular announcement by the players union, the negotiating process has returned to the dire outlook from whence it came. The two sides have been unable to meet in the middle and legal action may be long in finding a solution. It is understandable that each entity has to do what is best for it’s constituents. Yet it is the fans who ultimately pay the price.