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Already war of words started: union attorney disputes Stern

Jun 30, 2011, 5:41 PM EDT

National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern answers questions from members of the media regarding failed contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York Reuters

Welcome to the first of what will be an ongoing summer session of “the other side misrepresented our position” posts. We’re trying to come up with a catchy name for them.

The honor of going first goes to the players union. David Stern came out of the mostly-for-show final negotiating session between the players and owners Thursday in New York and said that the latest modification the players made to their proposal would have led to a $7 million average salary for NBA players in a few years. Then he scoffed at how that is not exactly controlling costs.

That is not the case at all, a union representative told Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe.

Jeffrey Kessler, the union’s lead outside counsel, rejected that $7 million figure and said the union never proposed a specific average salary number. Kessler told SI.com that the union simply tweaked its existing proposal in which the players would be guaranteed some percentage of the league’s total revenue — presumably between 50 percent and the current 57 percent. The league arrived at the $7 million figure by calculating how much players would get if that proposed percentage were applied to a growing revenue pie, Kessler said.

“The NBA is projecting massive revenue growth,” Kessler said. ”If you give the players any percentage of revenue, no matter what it is, if the league’s revenue grows massively, salaries will go up. Their statement about the average salary going up to $7 million must mean they think the NBA is going to be phenomenally successful, which we applaud.”

This is the core issue of the Collective Bargaining Agreement dispute in a nutshell.

The owners want to control the cost of players by basically holding how much they make flat for the next decade then keeping all the revenue growth for themselves. That is why Stern said the latest owners proposal means players could make up to $2 billion total a season in salary (they made $2.17 billion last season). It’s a small knock now but there would be no salary growth through the life of the deal.

The players want a part of that growth. Currently they get 57 percent of the gross Basketball Related Income (BRI) that comes into the league, they have offered to trim that back to 54 percent (or in that ballpark, the number may have moved a little). But, in their plan for every dollar of revenue growth for the league sees the players would get 54 cents of it. (The owners flat proposal would have the players getting a low 40s percentage of the BRI in a decade.)

And that doesn’t even get into how the two sides can’t agree how the BRI should be calculated (currently it is gross, the players want to keep it that way, while the owners want to take some expenses out off the top saying the players need to share in those costs).

That’s why we’re saying, the two sides are a long ways apart. A long, long way.

  1. trbowman - Jun 30, 2011 at 6:08 PM

    I hate Jeffrey Kessler.

  2. tashkalucy - Jun 30, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Are the players paying Kessler or asking him to work 50-70 hours a week for $1 during the lockout?

  3. thetooloftools - Jul 1, 2011 at 12:06 AM

    HAPPY LOCKOUT !
    It’s official !

  4. efueshe - Jul 1, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    I understand that the players may need to take a paycut but not giving the players part of what they actually cause (growth of revenue) really is not fair. The players are the ones who actually play and who the fans pay to see, not the owners or the arenas. Plus the BRI players’ cut should be slowly reduced; 8% is a very sharp decrease that is not reasonable to ask after 1 year. More discretion in how money is doled out to players should be taken by the owners, some of which are the fools who give Greg Oden 8.8 million dollars more.

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