Leonsis fined $100,000 by NBA
The NBA has fined Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis $100,000 for comments he made Wednesday morning about the league's salary cap.
At a breakfast with local business leaders at George Mason University, Leonsis said that he expects the NBA to soon have a salary cap structure similar to the NHL, according to an Associated Press report.
"In a salary cap era - and soon a hard salary cap in the NBA like it's in the NHL - if everyone can pay the same amount to the same amount of players, it's the small, nuanced differences that matter," said Leonsis, who also owns the NHL's Washington Capitals.
Later Wednesday, the NBA announced the fine for "unauthorized public comments regarding the league's collective bargaining negotiations."
NBA Commissioner David Stern addressed Leonsis's comments before the fine was announced. "We're negotiating and that was one of our negotiating points," he told the AP, "but collective bargaining is a negotiating process, and that was not something that Ted was authorized to say and he will be dealt with for that lapse in judgment."
The comments come at a sensitive time, with the NBA collective bargaining agreement set to expire June 30 and the threat of a lockout looming. The NBA and the players' union had what they called a "cordial and constructive" three-hour meeting last week as both sides hope to avoid a work stoppage. Owners met in New York on Monday.
Since owners and team representatives are not authorized to discuss issues involving the CBA, Leonsis later clarified his comments to the AP, saying that he felt the NHL hard cap is working. "The teams are very, very competitive. There is no way that big-market teams can outspend small-market teams. So when the season starts everyone thinks their team can compete for the Stanley Cup."
Leonsis has never hidden his preference for the NHL model. In an interview with the AP in May, after he had signed an agreement to buy the Wizards, he said: "I'm surprised because now I see all of the NBA financials. And I'd honestly have to say at this point in time that the NHL is stronger than the NBA, clearly because it has a CBA in place that protects owners from taking stupid pills. . . .
"There is a hard cap in the NHL. In the NBA, you can spend a lot of money and every dollar you're over this luxury tax you get fined. And there's a lot of basketball teams who are losing a lot of money."
- Michael Lee
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