But as the National Football League moved closer to salvaging its season and ending its 15-week lockout during talks in Minneapolis, NBA players and owners faced the likelihood of lost games or a lost season because of massively differing views on the economic health of the game.
“It worries me that we’re not closer,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said during the televised news conference. “We spent all this time trying to get closer. We have a huge philosophical divide.”
The players offered a final proposal Thursday, but Stern said the plan would have gradually increased the players’ average salary from $5 million to more than $7 million while preventing teams from achieving profitability.
NBA’s owners claim the league suffered $300 million in losses last year as 22 of its 30 teams — including the Washington Wizards — operated in the red, and that a revamped economic system is needed to bring costs under control.
Players blame free-spending owners who have made poor business decisions for the deficit. They contend the current system has helped generate unprecedented television ratings, interest and profits and should not be greatly changed.
“Our guys are anxious to get a deal . . . but to make sure it’s a fair deal for them,” NBA Players Association chief Billy Hunter told reporters after the meeting. “I think we’ve been trying to arrive at a win-win for both sides, and that’s part of the difficulty.”
The NFL’s dispute, in contrast, has been largely over sharing the cash-rich league’s magnificent wealth: how to equitably split some $9 billion in annual revenue. A host of NFL owners, players and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell assembled in Minneapolis this week, including late into Thursday night, for talks that hinted a deal could come soon.
In New York, meantime, Stern, Hunter, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, and player representatives Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers and Maurice Evans of the Wizards met for just more than 21
2 hours before abandoning talks.
“I was never too worried about the NFL,” said Gary Roberts, a sports law expert at the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis. “The only issue there is how to divide up this huge pot of money. . . . At the end of the day, this is going to get done and there will be a full season of football games.
“The NBA is in a totally different place. The business model is just broken. Too many teams are losing too much money not to have fundamental structural change.”
No further sessions have been scheduled, but Hunter said he expected the sides would reconvene in a couple of weeks. The league’s collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight Friday.