Blog Entry

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

Posted on: June 22, 2011 7:57 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 6:05 pm
NEW YORK – NBA players association chief Billy Hunter on Wednesday assailed the owners’ latest collective bargaining proposal and said he is prepared for owners to vote on a lockout at next Tuesday’s Board of Governors meeting in Dallas.

“Their demand is gargantuan and we just can’t meet it,” Hunter told reporters at the Manhattan hotel where players are staying for crucial meetings and draft-related activities this week.

A day after commissioner David Stern seized control of the message by disclosing details of the owners’ latest proposal, Hunter gathered reporters in an effort to respond and “set the record straight,” he said. At the meeting, also attended by union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers, executive committee member Maurice Evans of the Wizards and union staff, Hunter said the owners’ latest proposal would cost the players $8.2 billion over 10 years compared to the current system and $7 billion compared to the players’ standing offer.

“Under their proposal, over five or six years, they would reap a profit of over $1.8 billion after expenses – after their alleged expenses,” Hunter said.

Hunter and Fisher also clarified a point that was lost after Tuesday’s bargaining session: As part of their proposal to guarantee the players $2 billion in salary and benefits per year during their 10-year proposal, owners are seeking to keep the $160 million in escrow money withheld from players’ paychecks for the 2010-11 season. Eight percent of player salaries is withheld under the current agreement and returned each August to ensure that players ultimately wind up with 57 percent of basketball-related income (BRI).

“That’s money that players have already earned, worked for this past season,” Fisher said. “That’s off the table, as far as we’re concerned. To me, it speaks to the arrogance that they feel in approaching us with their proposal, to be able to go back and reach for those dollars.”

Fisher also assailed Stern’s characterization of a new cap system verbally proposed by owners as a “flex cap,” with a $62 million target per team and an undetermined maximum and minimum.

“We view that as just a total distortion of reality,” Fisher said. “It’s not a flexible cap, it’s a hard cap. … It’s flexible as long as you’re below what the hard level is.”

The so-called flex-cap concept disclosed by Stern Tuesday “has not been in a written proposal, with any teeth or any details,” Fisher said.

In response to the union's complaints, Stern said Wednesday night: "Players have benefited from the current system more than the teams. For them it has been a much better partnership. We are sorry that the players' union feels that way since it doesn't seem designed to get us to the agreement that is so important to the teams, and we had hoped, the players."

In briefing players around the league on the state of negotiations, including teammate Kobe Bryant, Fisher said players “are in total disbelief. They have asked us point-blank why we are even talking.”

Despite the grim turn these talks have taken in the past 48 hours, there's no need to panic. There is a blueprint for getting sports labor deals done when the sides are far apart, and the NBA talks are following it to a tee. I'll let the sports labor veteran I spoke with Wednesday take it from there.

"You curse each other out, go to marriage counseling, then blow the house up and stay away from each other for a while," the person said. "And you bring everybody back together when the bills come due. There's a deal to be made in there, but not now. No way."

With eight days before the current labor agreement expires, union officials will meet Thursday with player representatives of all 30 teams and as many as 20 other players who have elected to attend. Hunter said union officials will then determine what, if any, counterproposal to make in Friday’s scheduled bargaining session – likely the last one before the owners’ full Board of Governors convenes Tuesday in Dallas, where Hunter said he expects a lockout vote to occur.

“I’m sure that there’s going to be a vote,” Hunter said. “Whether or not they lock out, that’s going to be up to them. We’ve been threatened with that for the last two years … so I’m assuming that, from their perspective, (June 30) is the drop-dead date.”

Hunter and Fisher explained how they arrived at their offer of a more than $100 million-a-year salary reduction in their five-year proposal, saying it amounts to 57 percent of what Fisher described as the owners’ “true losses” – the same share of BRI they currently receive. By the players’ estimation, the owners’ $300 million annual loss figure is actually less than $200 million when interest expenses are deducted. Hunter stopped short of calling it an ambush, but he and the players clearly were blindsided when Stern characterized this offer as “modest.”

“I guess at this stage, the question is to what extent are they willing to kill this thing,” Hunter said of the owners.

Hunter also said owners have proposed adding $900 million to the $600 million that currently is deducted from gross revenues before the money is shared with the players, bringing the total to $1.5 billion under the owners’ proposal.

And a key sticking point remains the fact that owners have refused to collectively bargain a revamped revenue-sharing plan, an area the owners believe should be kept separate from the negotiations. Hunter referred to a group of small-market owners who wrote a memo to Stern in 2007 asking for enhanced revenue sharing, saying the fight is between small- and big-market owners as much as it is between owners and players.

“They have not disclosed to us one iota of what their proposed revenue-sharing plan would look like,” Hunter said. “… We want the assurance that it’s not all coming off the backs of the players.”

Hunter again derided the owners’ offer of a flat $2 billion pay scale for 10 years, saying the players would not regain the $2.17 billion level of salary and benefits they received for the 2010-11 season until the 10th year of the owners’ proposal. The union is projecting 4-5 percent annual revenue growth for the league over the next decade, a figure that is expected to rise after the current broadcast and digital rights agreements with ABC/ESPN and TNT expire in 2016.

Hunter was careful to stop short of saying the negotiations are at an “impasse,” a legal term that would signal that talks have irretrievably broken down – paving the way for a lockout, possible decertification of the union, and an antitrust lawsuit similar to the case filed by the NFL Players Association.

“We’re not at an impasse because there’s so many issues that we haven’t discussed,” Hunter said. “We’ve gotten stuck on economics.”

Asked if he trusts Stern to negotiate a fair deal, Hunter said, “We’re engaged in hard-knuckle negotiations. It ain’t about trust.”

“We have an idea what we’re willing to do and what he’s willing to do,” Hunter said. “And what we’ve indicated to them is that the perception is that it’s really becoming a game of power vs. power. And right now, I think that they feel as though they have the leverage or the upper hand.”

Since: Sep 4, 2007
Posted on: June 24, 2011 10:12 am

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

 I will however openly refute any assertion that there is a single NBA player who is currently smart enough to manage a multinational multibillion dollar company.

You see the good thing about being rich and being intelligent enough to own your business is this, you do not manage the the multinational multibillion dollar company.  You hire people smarter than you to do it for you.  If you dont get that concept alone then you probably shouldnt reply to any posts involving money or business.  Thats how companies make their billions.  
Do you really think the owners manage their teams?  Ask any CEO and he will credit someone or a team he trusts and pays to do all the managing.  Thats if we are speaking about big business.  If you are self employed and you do all the work then you just have another job with yourself as the boss.  Like I said the model is already their and there are more than enough billionaires interested in making a profit.  Thats one reason just anyone cannot own a team in the NBA.

Since: May 4, 2011
Posted on: June 24, 2011 1:29 am

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

It's a shame that when money making potential and ratings are at an all time high, a bunch of millionaires can't come together collectively and figurre out a way for everyone involved to make money. Thru revenue sharing there honestly should be no way any of the owners should lose money. The players have to compromise as well, for goodness sake theyr'e making millions of dollars to play a game that they love and would probably still be playing even if they were not getting paid. As a life long basketball fan this is an awful time to have a labor dispute, especialy when the Heat will be back next season hotter than ever. By the way for all those saying the NBA won't be missed speak for yourselves, it'll be sorely missed by me and millions of other basketball fans around the world. If it's so unimportant to you why waste time commenting about it. Hopefully things get hashed out and all of us basketball fans have another great season to watch next year. Go Heat!! 

Since: Sep 7, 2006
Posted on: June 23, 2011 10:07 pm

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

Why do so many teenagers come into the league and contribute right away?  Maybe b/c basketball requires less skill than any of the other big 3 leagues (MLB NHL and NFL).  When an 18 year old can come in and be productive in a "man's" league that tells you everything you need to know about the league. If there was a lockout for a year or two the owners could start the league up again with a new crop of college players and Europeans amd not miss a beat.
Basketball requires by far the most skill and athleticism.  This is without a doubt, the stupidest comment I've seen in the history of postings.  If you want to be technical-- Football requires the least skill...this is why Antonio Gates can't make the NBA but can play 0 downs of college football and become a perennial pro-bowl player and possibly a Hall of Fame Tight End.  Just stupid dude, the level of skill required in basketball is off the charts, just because their are a lot of gigantic clowns making it completely off size doesn't deligitimize the rest of the players...that's like gauging offense and defensive lineman as the standard bearer for all football players.  Camon dude.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: June 23, 2011 9:17 pm

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

I was waiting for the first "go on strike" guy. Here he is! Thanks, tjdj7.  Do you even read the articles or understand what is happening. For the 100th time: it is NOT A STRIKE. Workers go on strike. The NFL wokers (the players) went on strike in 1987. Owners lockout workers. This, you moron, is a lockout. At least don't open your mouth if you're just an ignorant hater.

Since: May 29, 2010
Posted on: June 23, 2011 6:13 pm

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

Football doesn't have guaranteed contracts, genius.  If an NFL team needs to clear space to make a move, they can clear space by waiving players.  NBA players are not giving up guaranteed contracts.  Hard Cap plus Guaranteed contracts is a recipe for stagnation.  Well thought out answer, genius.

Since: Mar 15, 2011
Posted on: June 23, 2011 5:58 pm

Head to Europe!

if the greedy owners lock out the players they'll be heading to europe where they can make even more money!  Lebron and Kobe can make $25-$30 mil over there.  The owners will have to pay up or lose the players for a season.

Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: June 23, 2011 4:21 pm

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

Actually, if the are under contract with an NBA team, they are prohibited from playing in Europe, even in the event of a work stoppage.

Since: Apr 12, 2007
Posted on: June 23, 2011 4:08 pm

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

Go ahead and go on strike. No one will care.

Since: Jun 23, 2011
Posted on: June 23, 2011 4:06 pm

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

hey no worries guys, the european and american players already accustomed to euro play will go overseas and avoid the lockout and play till its over. NBA players will have to accept reality, as entertainers....if you are grossly overpaid..the market eventually corrects itself. When actors make "bad" movies and the public does not go see them...they have to accept less to get paid.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: June 23, 2011 3:40 pm

Hunter: Owners' demands can't be met

this is headed for a dark time. i don't think the players have any leverage. too many nba teams are losing money. i hate to break it to the players, but no one wants to invest in something that loses them money. the owners may as well lock them out, and they may as well lose a season. i see everyone losing in this situation.

this isn't like the nfl. the nfl is massive. it makes ridiculous money. the owners and players in that league have to make a deal or they'll be fools.

the nba just doesn't have the same strength. the players are out of the minds. the only area i agree with them is in teams trying to gain past money contracted to them. i don't see that flying, but they're cut... that has to be drastically reduced.

no nba in 2011-2012. mark it down.

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