Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The National Basketball Association season’s first two weeks were canceled and more games are in jeopardy after owners and players failed to reach a new labor agreement.
NBA Commissioner David Stern announced last night, following seven hours of talks with the National Basketball Players Association at a Manhattan hotel, that 100 regular- season games had been wiped out.
Asked if the announcement means there’s no chance of having a full 82-game season, Stern said, “Yes, I think that’s right.”
“And every day that goes by, I think we need to look at further reductions in what’s left of the season,” Stern told reporters.
No further negotiations are scheduled between the sides.
The season was slated to start Nov. 1. Dropping the first two weeks eliminates games including the New York Knicks’ home opener against LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
The second cancellation in the league’s 66-year history comes more than three months after owners locked out players when they were unable to agree on a new collective bargaining contract. The league had about $4.3 billion in revenue last season and Stern has said the league’s 30 teams together lost at least $300 million in each of the past three seasons.
The NBA’s 450 players got 57 percent of basketball-related income under the previous collective bargaining agreement. Players recently were asking for 53 percent this time, while owners were offering 47 percent. Each percentage point is worth about $40 million. Stern said on Oct. 4 that owners could be convinced to accept 50 percent.
“There’s a place in the middle that we could all meet,” union President Derek Fisher said last night. “We’re not sure where that may eventually be, but on the system there were just some philosophical differences that continue to prevent us from getting this deal done.”
Stern agreed that the more difficult issues to overcome relate to the system the league operates under, including length of the labor agreement, players’ contract lengths, annual salary increases and the level of league taxation that teams would face if they surpass the cap on payrolls.
“I’m convinced that this is all part of the plan,” union Executive Director Billy Hunter told reporters. “Everybody is waiting for the players to cave. They figure that once a player misses a check or two it’s all over. I’m saying to you that that would be a horrible mistake if they think that’s going to happen, because it’s not going to happen.”
Broadcast Rights Fees
NBA owners receive broadcast rights-fee payments from their television partners even if games aren’t played. The money, more than $900 million a season, would have to be repaid to Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and ESPN and Time Warner Inc.’s TNT, Stern has said.
Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver also said on Oct. 4 that the league lost about $200 million in revenue from the cancellation of the preseason and faced “hundreds of millions of dollars” in losses from wiping out the first two weeks of the season.
“We have to account for the losses that we’re suffering, so those losses will be factored in as we move forward,” Stern said last night.
The only other time the NBA, which began play in 1946, delayed the season was in 1998, when a labor dispute put the start back to February 1999 and shortened the campaign to 50 games from 82. During that lockout, the two sides reached a preliminary agreement on Jan. 6, 1999.
“Regardless of what has happened tonight, we still have a responsibility to try and find a resolution,” Hunter said. “So I don’t think that means that this process is over, but I can’t begin to speculate on when we may meet again and how fast or slow this will now unfold.”
--With assistance from Scott Soshnick in New York.
--Editors: Rob Gloster, Dex McLuskey.
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