There's a looming deadline in the NBA labor dispute: owners of the major league basketball teams have given the players union until tomorrow to accept their latest offer. NBA commissioner David Stern says if the players continue to reject it, they'll face less attractive terms at the negotiating table.
Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant told Yahoo Sports that after months of acrimonious negotiation, both sides are closer than ever and need to talk before the deadline. "We need to iron out the last system items and save this from spiraling into a nuclear winter."
It's chilly already. Teams are losing money because the start of the NBA's 2011-2012 season was cancelled due to the dispute, which blossomed into a lockout on July 1. But the trouble started months earlier, and now both sides are entrenched. Stern hints he could cancel more games if the dispute drags on.
Both sides are stuck on revenue sharing and the bright line boundaries of salary caps. NPR's Tom Goldman simplified the salary cap issue for Morning Edition:
The league has proposed a hard cap on player salaries, which players are adamantly against. Right now, there's a soft cap where there is an upward limit on salaries but it can be exceeded in some situations. The owners have proposed what they call a flex cap. It's not as absolute as a hard cap, but players don't see the difference. They say flex cap has an ultimate ceiling that can't be exceeded.
But the real headache is over revenue sharing, with both sides claiming particular shares of BRI, or basketball related income: revenue from ticket sales, TV contracts and more.
Under the most recently expired NBA contract, players earned 57% of BRI. It's going to decrease in the next contract, but the sticking point is over how much. The players say they'll take 52.5%, while the owners say players should only get up to 51%. The issue is incendiary, with reports of players storming out of meetings and Stern getting criticized for pointing his finger across the negotiating table. A federal mediator has been involved in the most recent discussions.
The players may get angrier with tomorrow's developments. Stern says if players continue to reject the current offer by the owners, the next one will cut their share of BRI to 47% and include the flex salary cap, according to AP.
It's basically a pay cut, as the New York Times (paywall) describes it, and the paper has published Stern's letter to Billy Hunter, the players union executive, laying out the owners' offers.
There are a few whispers that some players aren't in agreement with the tough line taken by their negotiators. ESPN reports some players want to accept the deal, while others reportedly may have talked informally about union decertification; this could allow players to go to court in search of a more favorable legal remedy.
While this suggests players may not be unified in their approach to negotiations, ESPN adds decertification could be bad for owners. That's because it would most likely end any chance of a basketball season, becoming very costly for owners.