NBA players rejected the league’s latest offer on Monday and have begun the process of disbanding the union, drastically decreasing the likelihood of a season this year.
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“We’re prepared to file this antitrust action against the NBA,” said union executive director Billy Hunter. “That’s the best situation where players can get their due process.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern urged players to take a deal that he said was the best the NBA could offer, warning that de-certification would not be a winning strategy. Players rejected Stern’s ultimatum, calling it “extremely unfair”.
“This is the best decision for the players,” said union president Derek Fisher. “I want to reiterate that point, that a lot of individual players have a lot of things personally at stake in terms of their careers and where they stand. And right now they feel it’s important…that we not only try to get a deal done for today but for the body of NBA players that will come into this league over the next decade and beyond.”
Accompanied by dozens of players, including Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, Fisher spoke in a press conference today saying the decision was unanimous.
All players will be represented in a class-action lawsuit against the NBA by attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and David Boes, who were on opposite sides of the NFL labor dispute, with Kessler working for the players and Boies for the league.
“We think that we’ve got a stellar team,” said Hunter, who added that Kessler and Boies might file their suit as early as today and likely “sometime within the next two days.”
Both sides have lost hundreds of millions of dollars from games missed so far, and will lose countless more before the matter is settled and play resumes. Team employees are losing money, and in some cases their jobs, while fans are outraged over the strike.
The proposal rejected today by players called for a 50-50 division of basketball-related income, and proposed an abbreviated 72-game season begin on December 15.
The league made a very public push to promote the positives of the deal, hosting a twitter chat on Sunday in which they answered questions from fans and players, posting a YouTube video to explain the deal’s key points, and posting a memo from Stern to players on the league’s website urging them to “study our proposal carefully, and to accept it as a fair compromise of the issues between us.”
In the memo, Stern highlighted the compromises the league had made during negotiations, such as dropping its demands for a hard salary cap, non-guaranteed contracts, and salary rollbacks.
But while union officials said they were more concerned with system issues than with the split of basketball-related income, owners said they needed fundamental changes in both to allow for a chance to profit and ensure their franchises were competitive.
Owners claimed that in the old agreement, ratified in 2005 and expiring on June 30 of this year, they lost hundreds of millions of dollars each year. They wanted to keep more of the league’s nearly $4 billion in basketball revenues for themselves, after having guaranteed players 57% under the old deal. They also sought a system that would allow all clubs to compete, not just those that could spend the most.
Aside from the owners, many other companies have found themselves in a bind as they watch NBA revenues dry up, including Madison Square Garden Inc. (NASDAQ:MSG), Anheuser-Busch Inc.(NYSE:BUD), and Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE), as well as News Corp.(NASDAQ:NWSA), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), CBS Corp.(NYSE:CBS), The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), and DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) all of which broadcast NBA games on their networks, which include Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, and ESPN.