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Union membership clearly divided on Stern’s ultimatum

Nov 7, 2011, 6:59 PM EDT

Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter AP

Union leadership is clear — they don’t like the latest offer from David Stern and the league. They think it is unfair. They don’t think the owners have given enough on system issues for the players to come down from getting 51 percent of league revenues (and plenty within union leadership don’t even want to go down to 51 percent). The union is not backing down from Stern’s threat of a worse deal to follow.

And union leadership does not have an obligation to present offers it thinks are bad ones to the membership for a vote. The leaders are elected to vet such offers for the union, that’s how a negotiation works.

But they do have an obligation to know the mood of their constituents, and right now the union is a divided group. There are plenty of players out there — many the “rank and file” NBA players — who would vote to take the deal and get out on the court. And they are speaking out.

Take this note from Kevin Martin as told by Sam Amick at Sports Illustrated.

“If you know for sure [the owners] are not moving, then you take the best deal possible,” Martin wrote in a text message to “We are risking losing 20 to 25 percent of missed games that we’ll never get back, all over 2 percent [of basketball-related income] over an eight- to 10-year period [of the eventual collective bargaining agreement]. And let’s be honest: 60 to 70 percent of players won’t even be in the league when the next CBA comes around….

“My opinion — which is just one of 450 players — is that if it comes down to losing a season and 100 percent of the money, we all definitely have to sit down and think about reality. That doesn’t sound smart to possibly become part of the country’s growing unemployment rate.”

Lakers guard Steve Blake has been working the phones telling people around the league to push team rep’s to ask for a vote on Stern’s proposal, tweets Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Amick tweeted he spoke to agents representing 19 players, all of whom want to take the deal.

On the flip side, you have team reps reaching out to see if players favor decertification today. And you have plenty of players — particularly veterans and the elite players — who do not want to give in. There is this tweet from ESPN’s Chris Broussard.


It’s impossible to tell which side is in the majority (although Wojnarowski says more players would reject deal than take it) but clearly the union is divided. Which makes the job of Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter all the more difficult because they are going to have to sell the heck out of whatever decisions they make.

And that seems to embolden the owner hardliners, who want to pull back the offer on the table and really try to stick it to the union. To heck with the game, they want to win big.

Don’t expect to see the union calling for a vote on Stern’s proposal — union leadership would consider it a loss to put it to a vote. They are more likely to lean decertification and really fighting back.

Whatever happens in Tuesday’s union meeting, some people are going to be very unhappy. The union is not a unified front.

  1. eaglessuperfan - Nov 7, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    Do they realize that if they loose another month they stand to gain almost nothing? We are talking about maybe 1% over 10 years. Do they really want too keep loosing games (money) and leverage (deal is gonna get worse)?

    • david8726 - Nov 7, 2011 at 7:14 PM

      Well, to be fair, “1% over 10 years” is a huge amount of money. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. So I can understand why some players would want to fight for that.

      As a selfish fan, though, I want them to fold so I can watch basketball again.

      • hail2tharedskins - Nov 7, 2011 at 8:16 PM

        Well, missing just a quarter (20 games) from this season is also hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, assuming BRI is $4bil annually, 1% over ten years means the players are giving up $400M; missing 20 games or a quarter of a season means the players are losing $500M or $2bil if the entire season is lost. The dollars just don’t add up for the players to justify sacrificing the season over 1% or even 2-3% of BRI.

        Of course the owners are missing out on that revenue as well, but there are a few key distinctions: The first is that owners also won’t be making huge expenditures to host the games, there are a lot of expenses the owners must pay out from their cut of the revenue – in other words the plyers share of revenue is pure profit, the owners only see a fraction after expenses so the owners are sacrificing a lot less of the money that actually reaches their pockets. The second is that some teams are already losing money and they conceivable would lose less by not playing games since they would greatly reduce their expenses that are causing the losses. The teams like the Lakers and Knicks would be hit hard by not playing games but teams like the Bobcats might actually fair better without games (also note that while teams like the Lakers would be hit the hardest by missing games they are also in the best position to withstand the hit because of years of massive profits). Lastly, and most important the owners have decades to recoup any losses this year because they don’t have a term limit on how long they can be owners, the players only have a handful of years to earn money as basketball players and a season lost is a year of earnings they can never recover.

  2. kandh2004 - Nov 7, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    I have to give it to Martin this might be the smartest thing a players has said so far. Just take the deal and start getting paid for the god given talent that 100% of the fans wish they had

  3. dadawg77 - Nov 7, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    This isn’t about money anymore its about ego. If it was about money then the season would have started on time.

  4. brooklynbulls - Nov 7, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    I believe if they took it to a vote, the players would take the deal. The owners are unfair in their totalitarian approach, but hey thats what the rest of the real world’s employees must deal with from the corporate machine. At least the players get to suffer in a far more desirable tax bracket than the rest of us. Take the damn deal!

  5. stropcity - Nov 8, 2011 at 7:32 AM

    Should we really expect all 400+ players to share the same position on career altering issues that will affect not only their futures, but also the futures of kids still grinding on the middle school blacktop?

  6. spunjmunke - Nov 8, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    The longer that rich people argue about getting richer the more and more that those of us who scrape and struggle to get by will be more and more disenfranchised.
    Hey players…you have a good deal going. If it weren’t for the owners ponying up THEIR money, you wouldn’t have a job.
    Hey owners…you have a good deal going. If it weren’t for the players hustling their talant, you wouldn’t have a business opportunity.
    As funny as I think it is that the players are trying to paint the picture that they’re the victims here, the real victims are the people who’s livelyhood is dependent on these teams. Local businesses and support staff are struggling with every missed game. When those people go under, that’s less people that can afford to support the product and the jobs that you, the players and owners, produce. The longer you complain about a marginal percentage, the longer you can potentially damage your legacy in the community. But then, you guys are all making big time cash so why would you care? You can say you do, but it’s all lip service.

  7. poorlittlepinkus - Nov 8, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    So tired of this. Shut up and play ball!

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