Union membership clearly divided on Stern’s ultimatum

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Union leadership is clear — they don’t like the latest offer from David Stern and the league. They think it is unfair. They don’t think the owners have given enough on system issues for the players to come down from getting 51 percent of league revenues (and plenty within union leadership don’t even want to go down to 51 percent). The union is not backing down from Stern’s threat of a worse deal to follow.

And union leadership does not have an obligation to present offers it thinks are bad ones to the membership for a vote. The leaders are elected to vet such offers for the union, that’s how a negotiation works.

But they do have an obligation to know the mood of their constituents, and right now the union is a divided group. There are plenty of players out there — many the “rank and file” NBA players — who would vote to take the deal and get out on the court. And they are speaking out.

Take this note from Kevin Martin as told by Sam Amick at Sports Illustrated.

“If you know for sure [the owners] are not moving, then you take the best deal possible,” Martin wrote in a text message to SI.com. “We are risking losing 20 to 25 percent of missed games that we’ll never get back, all over 2 percent [of basketball-related income] over an eight- to 10-year period [of the eventual collective bargaining agreement]. And let’s be honest: 60 to 70 percent of players won’t even be in the league when the next CBA comes around….

“My opinion — which is just one of 450 players — is that if it comes down to losing a season and 100 percent of the money, we all definitely have to sit down and think about reality. That doesn’t sound smart to possibly become part of the country’s growing unemployment rate.”

Lakers guard Steve Blake has been working the phones telling people around the league to push team rep’s to ask for a vote on Stern’s proposal, tweets Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Amick tweeted he spoke to agents representing 19 players, all of whom want to take the deal.

On the flip side, you have team reps reaching out to see if players favor decertification today. And you have plenty of players — particularly veterans and the elite players — who do not want to give in. There is this tweet from ESPN’s Chris Broussard.

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It’s impossible to tell which side is in the majority (although Wojnarowski says more players would reject deal than take it) but clearly the union is divided. Which makes the job of Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter all the more difficult because they are going to have to sell the heck out of whatever decisions they make.

And that seems to embolden the owner hardliners, who want to pull back the offer on the table and really try to stick it to the union. To heck with the game, they want to win big.

Don’t expect to see the union calling for a vote on Stern’s proposal — union leadership would consider it a loss to put it to a vote. They are more likely to lean decertification and really fighting back.

Whatever happens in Tuesday’s union meeting, some people are going to be very unhappy. The union is not a unified front.