The push for the dissolution of the National Basketball Players Association has gained momentum since NBA commissioner David Stern presented its latest proposal late Thursday night. Players’ union executive director Billy Hunter was less than enthusiastic about the deal and a person close to the union who has been briefed on the negotiations said the offer “may be worse” than the one players rejected earlier this week.
Hunter has summoned the representatives for all 30 teams to gather in New York on Monday to make a decision, but in an interview with ESPN’s Sports Center on Friday, Stern urged players to accept the proposal in order for the 72-game season to begin on Dec. 15. Stern also advised agents and players not to pursue decertification, citing the federal lawsuit that the league filed in August that declared that the lockout does not violate antitrust laws and threatened to void all contracts if the union disbanded.
“I guess what I would say is, if the union is not in existence, then neither are $4 billion worth of guaranteed contracts that are entered into under condition that there’s a union,” Stern said. “So if the agents insist on playing with fire, my guess is that they would get themselves burned.”
Stern said he viewed decertification as a tactic to improve the players’ bargaining position, but said it would make it “even more likely that there won’t be a season.”
Union president Derek Fisher said the league has not made enough movement on the salary cap and luxury tax concerns that would allow them to accept a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. But Stern has already declared that the league is done negotiating and unable to make further concessions.
“The owners have moved to wherever they are going to move to,” Stern said. “This is the proposal that’s on the table. If it’s not accepted, then we’ll be substituting the proposal [with one] that the union knows about when the clock starts again, and it will be very far from where this proposal is.”
If the players reject the revised proposal, Stern has promised to present a much harsher alternative – with players receiving 47 percent of the revenues and a hard salary cap – which would effectively be a non-starter for the union and also possibly result in a lost season. “I refuse to contemplate the loss of a season,” Stern said. “It’s going to be too painful for the players and the owners alike. But we’ll still be here, we’ll pick up the pieces and do the best we can under the circumstances. But that’s not an eventuality that I anticipate or look forward to. It’s all in the hands of the players.”