Blog Entry

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

Posted on: November 9, 2011 11:53 am
Edited on: November 9, 2011 12:57 pm
NEW YORK -- In a lockout during which most days have been hideous for the players, this one had gone surprisingly well.

They'd presented a united front, made clear to David Stern's owners that they can have their 50 percent already and expertly shifted the pressure of this $4 billion fiasco back to their opposition.

By accepting the economic terms of the owners' offer Tuesday, the players were saying this to the world: If there's no deal Wednesday, Thursday or soon, it won't be because we weren't willing to compromise. It'll be because $3.3 billion over 10 years isn't enough for the owners. It'll be because the NBA wants to hold things up over some obscure system mechanisms that most fans can't relate to -- and for which clear compromises are available.

But here's the thing: Even on what had been a brilliant day for the players, it wasn't such a brilliant day -- for the same reason their days have grown increasingly miserable during this lockout. A great day, one that could go down as ultimately triggering the end of the lockout, was overshadowed by more unfortunate, divisive venom from the union's outside counsel and lead negotiator, Jeffrey Kessler.

Kessler, whose exploding-head theatrics and over-the-top rhetoric had twice contributed to significant blow-ups of the talks recently, told the Washington Post in an interview that occurred before the players' meeting and news conference Tuesday that the NBA was treating players like "plantation workers." No, really, he did.

“To present that in the context of ‘take it or leave it,’ in our view, that is not good faith,” Kessler told the Post in a telephone interview Monday night. “Instead of treating the players like partners, they’re treating them like plantation workers.”

Not only did this verbal assault lack cleverness -- it's a variation on the term commentator Bryant Gumbel had used to defame Stern recently, drawing universal scorn and ridicule -- but it was also offensive. It was not only offensive to Stern, but also to Kessler's clients, 80 percent of whom are black.

Once again, Kessler had poured the kind of needless gasoline on the lockout's smoldering fire, just as he's been doing for weeks.

“Kessler’s agenda is always to inflame and not to make a deal,” Stern said in a response to the Post. “Even if it means injecting race and thereby insulting his own clients. . . . He has been the single most divisive force in our negotiations and it doesn’t surprise me he would rant and not talk about specifics. Kessler’s conduct is routinely despicable.”

So you know what? At this important hour in the talks, a moment when the two sides are coming together at 1 p.m. in Manhattan to try to save the season, let's do something far more productive than Kessler shooting off his mouth and dragging this out for more lawsuits and billable hours.

Let's tell him to button up, get out of the negotiating room and hit the road.

Kessler, the union's lead negotiator and the lockout's chief destabilizer, need not show up at that meeting Wednesday. He needs to be fired.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Kessler told me on the phone Wednesday, even as the league and union were arranging the bargaining session. “But anybody who actually knows what my role has been in these and other negotiations, it has been to work and strive towards a deal. That’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

But all the evidence is to the contrary, and Kessler’s apologies Wednesday – released individually to various news outlets as opposed to en masse from the NBPA – didn’t change that.

“The comments that I made to the Washington Post took place late Monday night after a very long day,” Kessler said. “I look back on those comments as reported and I realize my choice of words was inappropriate. I am sorry about that. I intend to call commissioner Stern and apologize for my inappropriate choice of words.

“I made these comments as a passionate advocate for the players, but I can understand that they can be misinterpreted and viewed as being offensive,” Kessler said. “At this point, we need to put any distractions aside and work to try to get a deal to save the NBA season.”

Perfect advice, to put distractions aside – starting with Kessler. The NBPA should take Kessler’s advice and put him aside

“I did not intend to make any statement that would be interpreted as suggesting any type of racial issue,” Kessler said. “I don’t even remember if the comments were on the record or off the record, but in any event, my use of those words in that context was inappropriate.”

So Kessler had his say, and now I have mine: Go offend somebody else. Go bill somebody else. The players have paid you enough, and have paid enough for your inflammatory tactics that benefit only you.

When union executive director Billy Hunter sees Stern Wednesday, he should open the conversation with an apology on Kessler's behalf. Then, he should deliver news that will be music to the commissioner's ears: "We are no longer retaining Mr. Kessler's services."

Watch Stern skip from Olympic Tower to the East Side hotel where they’re bargaining. Watch how fast a deal gets done.

Let me be clear: Kessler shouldn't be fired only for bringing a plantation reference into the labor talks, or for having the poor taste to allude in any way to professional athletes being comparable to slaves. This was merely the last straw, the final indignity for players who are being led down a divisive, destructive path that has benefited Kessler and his law firm, Dewey & LeBoeuf, more than anybody.

Kessler is the same attorney, and Dewey & LeBoeuf the same firm, that represented the NFL players during their recent lockout. The NFLPA let Kessler play bad cop for a while, but union chief DeMaurice Smith recognized that he was too emotional and needed to take a back seat when it came time for a deal to get done.

Finally, it is that time in the NBA talks. Time for Kessler to step aside.

Having closed what was once a $10 billion economic gap with the owners over 10 years, the players don't need any more rhetoric. And they don't need Kessler's divisive tactics, offensive speech, and quite simply, annoying presence in the bargaining room. The deal is 99 percent done, the players won't be needing Kessler's services for a decertification lawsuit, and he should simply go away before he blows things up again.

After the two most recent implosions of the talks, Kessler stepped to the microphone and fanned the flames. After a meeting that broke down over system issues, Kessler said the talks had been "hijacked," and spun a fantastic fairy tale about how Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen had torpedoed the negotiations -- even though all he did was sit in the room and, unlike Kessler, not say a word.

Then on Sunday morning, at a time that called for decorum and a delicate touch to cleverly turn Stern's ultimatum right back on him, Kessler went bazookas again. He called the owners' tactics "threats" and "intimidation," and characterized Stern's portrayal of the league's proposal "a fraud."

Even some hard-line members of the union leadership have grown uncomfortable with Kessler’s flame-throwing approach.

If Kessler missteps this frequently and spectacularly during his brief encounters with reporters, just imagine how bad it gets when he's in a room yelling at Stern and his billionaire owners – and vice versa -- for 16 hours at a time.

The job of a lawyer is to advocate aggressively for his clients. But while I've accused Stern of speaking with a forked tongue, and accused the league's lead negotiator, Adam Silver, of double talk -- and while I fundamentally believe that the owners are pushing for way too much here -- Stern and Silver have at least conducted themselves professionally in public. Kessler? He's been professional, all right. A professional wrecking ball.

Kessler is right: The players can't afford any more distractions that could imperil this deal. Unfortunately, I'm not optimistic that the union will take my advice and kick Kessler to the curb, the way he was kicked to the curb late in the NFL negotiations. The union, to its discredit, decided not to issue its own apology for Kessler's offensive comments. When I asked Kessler if he had any intentions of stepping aside, he said, “Absolutely not. If you knew the real dynamics in the negotiating room, you wouldn’t say that.”

But that doesn't change the fact that it's time for Dr. Doom to go.

There are level-headed, respectable professionals on the union’s negotiating team, and they will take it from here. Hunter, Derek Fisher and general counsel Ron Klempner are more than capable of closing the deal. Klempner is the one writing the union's proposals, anyway, has the best grasp of the subject matter, and has consistently displayed the kind of reason and spirit of compromise that is conducive to getting a deal done.

Kessler? You can go find some more people to offend, more athletes to prey on, and more hours to bill. Your services, and your inflammatory tactics, are no longer needed here.

To borrow the signature phrase of the lockout, how u? Or better yet, how u sleep at night?

Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:40 pm

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

Anyone, be they player, press, media personality, manager, owner of ANY professional or college sport that brings up race for any activity - without rock hard solid evidence should be fined, fired, and forever banned from the sports world.  Will that or anything close to it ever happen, NO, the thought of it is just as stupid as me typeing it today.  But it shows how stupid people still are about the subject.  This idiot's comments this week aren't the only ones we've heard or read recently, but like all of them they made the headlines, WHY, because just like sex, it sells.  Even the smallest amount of either, sells.  That's why these jerks make these comments, and that's why these idiots print them.

Since: Dec 27, 2007
Posted on: November 10, 2011 12:39 pm

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

Kessler's probably been hanging out with other known clueless "journalists&quo
t; like William Rhoden or Bryan Gumbel. Where's the call for their ouster Berger? Is it because they're one of your brethren? You're a typical media hypocrite.

Kessler is just echoing the rhetoric of the media jackals. For years they've been making this idiotic and insulting comparison because they're devoid of common sense and an understanding of history. Rhoden wrote a book(no one read of course) insinuating the plantation owner analogy. Comment Berger? Bryan Gumbel just made a similar remark about Stern on his HBO Show(that no one watches either) Then there was that other neanderthal, Jemele Hill made her Nazi remark. Where's the sense of outrage there Berger? Hmmmm... Silent of course. Hypocrite.

This is typical of the cherry-picking sports media. There are so few who actually get it and see the whole picture or have the onions to write about it. There is a culture of journalists who see everything as black-and-white and look to expolit that for readership and fame. Kessler simply is feeding into that for his own selfish reasons.

Kessler is a jerk. However, I may ask you Berger, How do you sleep at night?(Proper grammar used here).

Since: Sep 29, 2009
Posted on: November 10, 2011 11:09 am

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

Ken sounds like a writer whose career is dependent on the NBA playing basetball and wants a deal it is going to be everyone else's fault if it doesn't happen.  Kessler is all of the things people say about him and the only reason the players have a chance at a 50/50 split of BRI.  Every time a deal goes in front of the players they say it is evern worse than we were lead to believe, well not by Kessler.

Since: Sep 27, 2006
Posted on: November 10, 2011 11:04 am

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

Jeffrey Kessler is a hate-filled vile racist who needs to be removed from any and all aspects of the NBA negotiations.  He, and others like him, see everything in the world strictly in terms of skin color.  All white people are like this, all black people are like that, and so on.  As far as equality, there cannot and will not ever be equality among people as long as there are Jeffrey Kesslers in this world, eager to divide everyone by the color of their skin, in hopes of making some sort of financial gain out of it.  The NBA players union is doing themselves a huge disservice by keeping this vulgar pathetic racist around to represent them.

Since: May 11, 2007
Posted on: November 9, 2011 11:49 pm

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

"but, it`s not racist to say your black clients are being treated like plantation workers. It`s just the opposite, it`s sticking up for them"

The NBA black players aren`t treated any different than the NBA white players, right? so if you single out any group of people, then that IS racism. And to compare them to "plantation workers", thats like comparing them to slaves. And slaves didn`t have a choice... If players don`t like their situation, they have the ability to WALK away

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: November 9, 2011 9:02 pm

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

People like Kessler, Jesse Jackson, Bryant Gumbel, Louis Farakhan are defacto racism pimps...sensationalists...frauds...

.disguised as lawyers, diplomats, journalists and ministers...the sad truth is, they exploit those they pretend to defend, for a living. As long as there is money to be made from, or failures to be blamed on, racism... parasites like these will keep it alive. 

90% of the NBA is black. They have the highest average salary of ANY pro sport. The NBA's problems have actually become worse because owners have catered to players too much, allowed them power beyond their capacity, paid them beyond their value, and given them the mistaken prespective they are partners, instead of employees. 

This lockout isn't about black and white, no matter how much players want to hide the truth, it's about GREEN....the color of money, and envy...THE 2 issues blinding players from seeing the obvious rational decision to take a pay cut and go back to making millions in a profitable NBA...

It's ironic that the only accustations of greed, and inflammatory racial remarks, have come from players, or those who claim to be defending players....when in fact, the only racists in the NBA are probably the fools making the accusations, and it's the players unrealistic demands of more money in the face of the NBA's  $300 million loss that forced the lockout in the first place.  

Sometimes the real criminals try to hide by taking loud and pointing fingers at others.        

Since: Oct 24, 2010
Posted on: November 9, 2011 8:13 pm

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

Did y'all see Valpo vs Arizona the other night..........

Oh, yeah: Berger=Player Shill

Since: Mar 15, 2011
Posted on: November 9, 2011 8:03 pm

Race Card

This $1,000/hour lawyer is throwing out the race card to get attention and pretend the players making millions are "mistreated" by rich white owners.  Amazing.

Since: Sep 14, 2011
Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:22 pm

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

Maybe if this guy were fired, that would help end the race card being played as frequently as a Seinfeld rerun.  Kessler and the Jesse Jackson's of the world have completely turned the word racist into a punchline that has completely lost its true meaning, To me, being wrongfuly accused of being racist is equally as bad as being one.  People have gotten fired for a lot less than this for insensitive remarks toward women and minorities.  This clown meant it!

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:19 pm

Kessler apologizes, but still needs to go

I don't know what it is with the media, but it seems that any time someone makes a mistake or a dumb decision...those in the media think that person should lose his/her job.  Say something dumb, then you have to be fired.  I don't think the general public is nearly as unforgiving.  At this point in this NBA lockout, I don't know if the public much cares what the various negotiators say anymore.

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