Bloomberg News

NBA, Players Union Officials Plan to Resume Labor Talks Tomorrow

November 04, 2011

Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- National Basketball Association owners and players will resume labor talks tomorrow, the union said after a meeting of its executive board.

“It’s not wise or prudent for us to let huge gaps of time go by and let the clock run and not meet because then we just become more entrenched in our positions,” Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, told reporters following the meeting yesterday at the union’s headquarters in New York. “At least if we’re around the table something might happen.”

The talks would resume amid discussions among some players about whether to move toward decertifying the union, the New York Times and other media outlets reported, based on information from people close to the players.

About 50 players, including All-Stars, held a conference call yesterday with an antitrust attorney to discuss the process of dissolving the union -- a move that could lead to a federal antitrust suit being filed against the league, the Times reported.

National Football League decertified their union this year and filed an antitrust suit against the NFL, and a similar move by NBA players has long been among their considerations.

Hunter said he received a phone call two days ago from federal mediator George Cohen, who led three days of talks last month. Hunter then called NBA Commissioner David Stern to set up the meeting that he said comes without any preconditions. The league has yet to agree to include Cohen or another mediator in the talks, Hunter said, adding that he would be in favor of an intermediary.

Mike Bass, an NBA spokesman, said in an e-mail that he didn’t have any immediate comment.

United Board

Hunter also said that recent media reports of a fractured relationship between him and union President Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers were incorrect.

“The board, we’re all together, so if you’re expecting anything else you’re wasting your time,” Hunter said. “I don’t think we spent much more than 10 or 15 minutes on the issue. We had no problems and that’s the reality.”

The NBA on Oct. 28 canceled all November games after the sides were unable to reach agreement on how to share the league’s more than $4 billion in annual revenue.

Sticking Point

The players, who received 57 percent under terms of the expired labor contract, want 52 percent, while the owners have offered 50 percent. The split of revenue has been one of the biggest sticking points in talks aimed at ending an owner- imposed lockout that began on July 1.

Asked if he’d be willing to go below 52 percent, Hunter said, “I’d rather not answer that question.”

“The biggest misperception out there is that it’s only about two percentage points,” union executive committee member Roger Mason Jr. told reporters. “It’s about more than just 50 or 52 or whatever. There’s still a system that hasn’t been addressed. The perception that we’re 95 percent done with the system issues is just not true because there’s still some issues that lead to a big divide.”

Stern has ruled out a complete 82-game season. The NBA played a 50-game schedule during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, the first time it had lost games that count because of a work stoppage.

Teams would need about a month after an agreement in principle is reached to sign players and stage training camp.

--Editors: Dex McLuskey, Rob Gloster

To contact the reporters responsible for this story: Scott Soshnick in New York at ssoshnick@bloomberg.net; Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net


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