The shot clock is about to expire on a new NBA season. Both NBA and NBPA met for over six hours last night in New York, but could not reach a new collective bargaining agreement, ensuring that the first two weeks of the season will be canceled today. The two sides are scheduled to meet again this week to take a final crack at an agreement that saves the season.
The AP reports that neither party even discussed the most important issue between them Sunday night- the split of basketball-related income (BRI). NBA officials on Friday made it a precondition that the union accept a 50/50 split of the BRI before any more meetings would occur. While the league relaxed those preconditions Sunday, both sides touched on several other issues instead of going near the BRI. The players have been insistent that the lowest they will go on a split is 53%, leaving the two sides close but not close enough on reaching a new deal.
Yesterday, basketball bloggers took to Twitter to promote #fiftyonepointfive, which represents the difference between 53 (where the players are) and 50 (where the owners are). CBS Sports Ken Berger tweeted yesterday that “by holding out for 50-50, owners drawing line in sand over $400M total over 6 yrs, half of which they’d lose by canceling 2 weeks.” A subsequent tweet also revealed that the “difference between 53 & 51.5 for players in yr 1 is $70 million, which they’d lose in less than a week of canceled games.” Pretty compelling arguments for both sides settling at 51.5% for the players, 48.5% for the owners.
It’s also important to remember that the $4 billion that the owners and players can’t agree to split is money generated from the fans.
But, let’s not forget: this lockout also affects thousands of workers in NBA cities, from the people that work for the league’s 30 teams to those that work at area restaurants and industries supported by NBA games. A lot of people, other than the 30 owners and 400 players, have a lot riding on these negotiations. To let a 3% difference put thousands of people in jeopardy is downright crazy, especially during the economic downturn that this country has seen over the past couple of years.
Ironically, players have caused this stalemate due to their willingness to get a deal done. As has been noted before, the players received 57% of the BRI in the last CBA. At the start of the talks, they reduced their share to 53 without receiving anything from the owners in return. The owners have now “graciously” offered to compromise at 50/50, but haven’t offered anything for this position. It’s thought that owners believe the players are weak and are hoping to split the union, thereby getting players to crack once paychecks start going missing. The players have been adamant that they are a united front, but every one knows that stars such as Lebron James and Kobe Bryant can withstand missing a few paychecks, while the rank and file will need those payments sooner rather than later.
More talks are scheduled for today, but with two huge hurdles remaining—BRI and the structure of a new salary cap—it’s unlikely that a deal gets done today. However, if the two sides can make some progress on each, we could expect an extension of the deadline. However, as of right now, the only thing keeping the two sides away from an agreement is pure ego and stubbornness. Both sides are engaging in a game of chicken that no one– fans, players, or the owners– can win.