How did this all go down? How did a Monday meeting where the union representatives were expected to reject the latest offer from the owners and make a counter proposal turn into dissolving the entire union and likely blowing up the NBA season with it?
The whole idea came from the players… well, if you think the players sit around and discuss the merits of different tactics of NBA labor law. So maybe we should look to the agents, except they are not thrilled with this move. Billy Hunter said did not come from union leadership. But while nobody will take credit, everybody had a hand in it at some level.
In the end, it comes back to the players. It’s their union. And this is how athletes react — they are competitive and will fight to win. They can make emotional decisions about winning that may not play out well in board rooms. They’ve been losing the negotiations so they responded in the most aggressive way they could. They took out the biggest club in their bag, even if this was not the best play at the time. And now here we are, staring at a lost season.
Here is what happened in Monday’s NBPA meeting, as reported by Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.
As Hunter described, union officials explained the owners’ proposal, which would’ve been replaced by a far worse one if the players didn’t accept it. He then laid out the options: present it to the full body for a vote; reject it; make a counterproposal; or give the NBPA the authority to “do whatever they deem necessary and appropriate going forward,” Hunter said.
“And then all of a sudden, the players said, ‘No, we want to talk about decertification or disclaimer,’ ” Hunter said. “So it actually came from the floor. And when it came from the floor, then that’s when we began to engage on the issue….
Players are not stupid and they understood the basic idea here, but did they really think through all the consequences? It’s hard to see enough guys getting behind this without a push from their agents, some of whom wanted to decertify July 1. That said, agents had been pushing for a player-led decertification effort that would have taken at least another 45 days (leaving time for negotiations). The disclaimer method — essentially the union disavowing the players — is much faster but much riskier. It’s not a move most agents wanted.
The decision to disclaim, announced after the nearly four-hour player meeting, stunned even those agents who had been clamoring for the players to decertify for months. Agents held a conference call late Monday afternoon, and according to a person who was briefed on it, hardly any of them were happy with the path the union chose….
“This is honestly the last thing I would’ve done,” one moderate agent said of the union’s disclaimer. “I can’t imagine these [players] truly know what they’ve gotten themselves into. … I don’t know an agent, including the decert agents, who are happy with this move.”
Did the players really get the consequences, that this may well have cost the NBA an entire season? And over what? Full mid-level exceptions for the seven teams playing the tax every season and to eliminate the repeater tax hikes for those teams? I get they players want a system that allows them more freedom of movement, but they got painted into a corner by Stern and rather than throwing the ball back in his court (with a counter proposal) they blew up the entire season. Stern gets to win the PR game again.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo pulled no punches on what he thought happened.
Too many of the player reps didn’t know the difference between a disclaimer of interest, decertification and “Dancing with the Stars” when they walked into that meeting. As it usually goes in these labor talks, whoever gets the players’ ears last can talk them in and out of almost any directive. The agents were locked out, cell phones confiscated at the door, and Hunter had a captive audience with some big fancy antitrust lawyers to make his case. Too many of those player reps are young kids who were given the task as a locker-room punishment, or older guys looking for the free annual meeting in the Caribbean.
Before they went this route, the NBA players should have talked to their NHL brethren and asked if losing a season was worth it, or if those guys regret the lost chances and lost salary more? It doesn’t feel like this strategy was really thought out all the way around the block.