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David Stern calls union’s move “bad negotiating tactic”

Nov 14, 2011, 3:58 PM EDT

David Stern, Adam Silver AP

UPDATE 3:58 pm: Here is commissioner David Stern’s official statement, released by the league:

“At a bargaining session in February 2010, Jeffrey Kessler, counsel for the union, threatened that the players would abandon the collective bargaining process and start an antitrust lawsuit against our teams if they did not get a bargaining resolution that was acceptable to them.

“In anticipation of this day, the NBA filed an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board asserting that, by virtue of its continued threats, the union was not bargaining in good faith. We also began a litigation in federal court in anticipation of this same bargaining tactic.

“The NBA has negotiated in good faith throughout the collective bargaining process, but — because our revised bargaining proposal was not to its liking – the union has decided to make good on Mr. Kessler’s threat.

“There will ultimately be a new collective bargaining agreement, but the 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy.”

3:35 pm: Minutes after the NBA players’ union held a press conference saying they would decertify, David Stern went on ESPN to decry the move and say it was a mistake by players that would cost the season.

Stern spun it so that it was the players who pushed the button, saying his side had put forth a fair labor offer that the players rejected. Here are the key points of Stern’s comments.

• Stern says this wasn’t really a surprise, that the union and its legal counsel have threatened this from the start. The league expected this, which is why they filed a pre-emptive lawsuit to try to cut it off at the knees. (That case is early in the process, and there have been no rulings.)

• Along those lines, Stern keeps calling decertification a negotiating tactic. Which it is. But by all indications (based on the owners’ actions) it is the one they feared.

• Stern again tries to appeal directly to the players, saying they should ask the union why they did this now. That has been his pattern for weeks, to use the media to talk directly to the players. He talks about the players’ missing paychecks a lot.

• Stern said they did not give the players an ultimatum. Yes, they did. A proposal where you say, “If you don’t take it, we’re going to make a much worse offer next time” is an ultimatum. And it’s that hardline, take-it-or-leave-it phrasing that doomed this process as much as anything else. Neither side has negotiated well, acting a lot more like 5-year-olds fighting over who gets to play with the Transformer toy.

• Stern is spot on with this comment: “If they were going to do this, maybe they should have done this a long time ago so we had a chance to save the season. But they seem hell-bent on self-destruction.”

• Man, Stern really hates NBA legal council Jeffrey Kessler. It’s palpable. And by all accounts mutual.

  1. htimsr40 - Nov 14, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    Aparently Stern believed that a “good” negotiating ploy was to threaten the players – “take the 50% offer that’s on the table or our next offer will be lower”. THAT is commonly termed “threatening” the other party, not negotiating.

  2. b7p19 - Nov 14, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    I think everybody hates Jeffrey Kessler. I don’t blame Stern for trying to do his job with all this spin nonsense, but anybody that has finished kindergarten can easily see right through him.

  3. henryd3rd - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    Stern must think we’re all stupid. The owners signed these contracts, then said they could not afford them, locked the players out and now they say the players are not bargaining in good faith. If he owners ran their primary businesses the way their run their basketball teams there would be not NBA

    • berto55 - Nov 14, 2011 at 5:31 PM

      We pay way too much money to go watch these guys half-ass it during the regular season and then even more for them to actually play a bit in the playoffs. Stern doesn’t think we’re stupid, he knows it.

  4. henryd3rd - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    Stern must think we’re all stupid. The owners signed these contracts, then said they could not afford them, locked the players out and now they say the players are not bargaining in good faith. If he owners ran their primary businesses the way their run their basketball teams there would be not be NBA owners

  5. burnsy - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Funny, Kessler’s the only one getting a paycheck right now.

    • gratefuled19 - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:31 PM

      Excuse me, but don’t you think David Stern is still getting a paycheck? And he’s earning it, since he is clearly the agent of the owners.

      • rlquall - Nov 14, 2011 at 11:14 PM

        What a shock! David Stern is somehow under the impression that he works for the people who hired him and sign his checks!

  6. poorlittlepinkus - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Just sad.

  7. stoutfiles - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    You know, the players could have just signed the contract realizing that they already get paid a ridiculous amount of money for bouncing a ball and putting it through a small hoop.

  8. mvp43 - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    god I hope Larry Hughes doesn’t have to sell his Lambo to put food on the table……..that would be just wrong……..

  9. stadix093 - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    Oh lord, now I have to deal with player x is going to team z in Europe all over again.

  10. kehnn13 - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    The players should just start their own league…They would need cash, but wouldn’t have to worry about legal actions against the union and could tell the owners where to go at the same time.

    • rlquall - Nov 14, 2011 at 11:33 PM

      Striking players have tried to put their own games together as far back as baseball in the 1880s and have always fallen flat. What do you see in this bunch in the way of business sense or sports knowledge that indicates that they would be any different? Most of them have no awareness of anything that has ever gone on in the world prior to their arrival in it, or anything that doesn’t directly involve them, as far as I can tell.

  11. gratefuled19 - Nov 14, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    As Commissioner of the NBA Stern should be attempt to mediate, not advocate for one side: the owners. This just shows what a one-sided deal the owners are trying to impose. They signed those player contracts, too. Now, they’re welching. Looking for a bailout.

    • ghelton03 - Nov 14, 2011 at 6:29 PM

      Stern is paid by the owners. He only cares about them, not the players.

  12. henryd3rd - Nov 14, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    I don’t know about you people; but I still have the NFL and not too long after the Super Bowl it’s pitchers and catchers.

    • stadix093 - Nov 14, 2011 at 5:38 PM

      Henry I live in Los Angeles and am a Dodger fan. So I have no dog in the NFL fight and my MLB team is run by an idiot. People like me do not share your comforts.

  13. portlandinhousegal - Nov 14, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    Union counsel. That’s c o u n s e l. Not council. Unless they have formed some sort of a counsel council

  14. charlutes - Nov 14, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    I hate Stern.

  15. artisan3m - Nov 14, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    A league commissioner in any sport should be prohibited from taking a side in labor negotiations. How can players expect to get a fair shake from a commissioner on other than labor issues when he is in bed with owners? In Stern’s place, the players should insist he be canned as the primary condition to starting a season even if a contract is agreed to.

    • ghelton03 - Nov 14, 2011 at 6:27 PM

      The owners pay Stern. He is only looking out for them. Doesn’t care about the players unless they want to pay to care.

  16. ghelton03 - Nov 14, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    Stern is really an idiot. He is calling the decertification a tactic, because it plays well in the public. But, he knows it is no tactic and the players have every intention of following through on this and they have a good case. Just because it didn’t work for the NFL, don’t count on the NBA players not being sccessful, they have a good case, due in large part to Stern’s stupid, chest thumping, wind blowing, ultimatum setting, behavior. Lights on, but nobody’s home.

    • rlquall - Nov 14, 2011 at 11:29 PM

      What sort of incompetent judge allows a “union” to de-certify and re-certify on essentially a whim? I don’t remember the Teamsters, Iron Workers, Carpenters, etc. breaking up everytime that negotiations break down and then reforming when things got settled. If you say that’s because they were “real” unions involving “real” workers then that’s sort of the point.

      Both sides in the NBA have often hidden behind, “Oh well, we can’t help it, it’s in the CBA and that’s how it works.” Let’s face it, “real” unions have “locals” of more than 15 members and have more than 30 locals, and aren’t just 450 members nationwide that average $3M in pay per year. Back when the players were making $50K/yr. unless they were superstars you could argue with some reasonableness that they were getting shafted. Now that you can make enough money in an average four yr. + career at average pay to take care of yourself for the rest of your life if you are even just marginally prudent and don’t think that you have to have more than three houses or six cars at a time (or ten kids by eight different women) you have a very hard time getting my sympathy. There are only a few people that can play basketball at the very top level (Kobe now, Jordan 10-15 yrs. ago, Bird and Magic 25 yrs. ago, Oscar Robertson and Kareem 40 yrs. ago) but there are literally thousands of role players almost as good as players seven – twelve on most rosters and even some of the lesser starters; the “market” has been vastly distorted if it now indicates that these guys are somehow worth millions.

  17. bassethund - Nov 14, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    So the idiot players are posting because they have no job. Beautiful. Keep hating on stern while your union costs you billions of dollars.

  18. davemmm - Nov 14, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    “a bad negotiating tactic”

    As opposed to “this is our best offer, take it or the season is over”. Now thats “negotiating”.

    • rlquall - Nov 14, 2011 at 11:37 PM

      My nominee for mediator: Howie Mandel and his “banker” friend. “Here’s the new offer: 51.5% and 5% participation in aggregate league profits over $350 million. Deal, or No Deal?”

  19. bravin4evr - Nov 15, 2011 at 12:46 AM

    Guess stern doesn’t think owners bargaining tactics were a mistake either….think small $ markets lost $ last year, wait until they lose a season and see how much they lose…eh mj

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