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NBA players taking tactic out of John F. Kennedy’s arsenal

Nov 8, 2011, 5:50 PM EDT

Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter AP

Time for a little history: During the Cuban missile crisis, Russia and the United States were working on a back-channels deal that was essentially the Russians take their missiles out of Cuba and the United States would end its blockade and not invade the island nation. Then as that deal got close a letter from Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev was published in the American press saying that part of the deal had to be the USA pulling its missiles out of Turkey (less than 200 miles from Russia).

President John F. Kennedy’s response? He ignored that added demand. He telegraphed Khrushchev and said the United States would end the blockade and not invade the island if the missiles were removed, otherwise it was war. Khrushchev took the offer.

That is essentially the tactic the NBA players’ union has taken in dealing with an ultimatum from David Stern (something pointed out by our own Matt Moore). It’s a classic negotiating strategy. Union president Derek Fisher said his side stands ready to keep negotiating from where the talks are now, close to a deal. Basically he said, “We’re not playing your game of deadlines and rollbacks.” The union will ignore that.

“Our options are to keep doing what we are doing,” said union executive director Billy Hunter, adding the union would keep negotiating off what the union has proposed, not whatever the league puts on the table.

Union leaders suggested they would be willing to give the owners the split of BRI they want if the owners would give up a series of system issues. If the sides keep talking.

This puts Stern on the spot because now, to save face and meet the demand of his hardliners, he has to roll back the offer (unless there are ongoing negotiations Wednesday, as the players said they would try to set up). But the deal is close to where the two sides are now. If Stern and the owners really stick to what is reportedly in the new offer — salary rollbacks, a hard salary cap, a smaller percentage of revenue to the players and more — you can forget about basketball this season at all.

It’s a huge threat by Stern and the owners.

One the players have chosen to just ignore. It worked for JFK. Although, a few months after the crisis ended President Kennedy did take the missiles out of Turkey, so maybe it worked out for Russia, after all.

  1. dadawg77 - Nov 8, 2011 at 6:03 PM

    One thing was the US did agree to pull those missiles just but a little bit later. Russia agreed because it allowed the US to save face and avoid the destruction of the world. Maybe the Owners need to concede something to allow the NBAPA to win something and the deal would be done. Instead they are playing a zero sum game that which will become a lose lose deal. How much equity would NBA owners lose if the a year is missed? If Lebron leaving Cleveland cost Gilbert $100 million, they could end up losing billions in franchise values if we lose a year.

  2. leearmon - Nov 8, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    With this move & the players’ union saying they’ll be willing to take even a lesser ammount of th BRI, we will truly see what the owner’s really want. For the past several months the owners, and to some extent fans, have been saying this lockout is to make each team competitive. However, if they change their “system issues” for a larger piece of the BRI pie, obviously the owners will show to the world what many of us have already known. They don’t care about winning as much as they care about making money. As if winners don’t bring in $$$.

    It’s time to see what this entire work stoppage is about. I’m very interested in seeing Stern’s & the owner’s next move. If they stay true to their rhetoric about wanting “competitive balance” than no ammount of increased BRI they may recieve should matter. However if they take a larger piece of the $$$ pie in exchange for looser system issues i.e. softer cap, longer contracts, higher MLE etc. we will finally see that all of these shenanigans were about billionaires wanting that much more money, and willing to do whatever, including sacrificing a popular sport, including people’s jobs to get it.

  3. mrf47 - Nov 8, 2011 at 9:38 PM

    However, unlike Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis, the owners have no interest in saving their current world. Many would prefer to see the NBA burn.

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