Report: NBA players who choose not to play will lose higher share of salary than suspended players

Nets star Kyrie Irving and Lakers center Dwight Howard
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

The public messaging on players who choose not to play in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World: They won’t face discipline.

But they won’t get paid, which is no small matter.

Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski:

they will lose payment on games missed — 1/92nd of the money owed them, sources said.

I wonder whether that’s actually 1/92.6th, which is the amount salaries are reduced for each game canceled through force majeure.

Either way, it’s a higher proportion of salary than players lose when suspended.

Here’s the share of salaries players lose per game when:

  • Suspended for fewer than 20 games: 0.7%  (1/145th)
  • Suspended for 20 games or more: 0.9% (1/110th)
  • Choosing not to play at Disney World: 1.1%

That seems unfair – especially when players on the eight done teams will receive the same percentage of their salaries as reporting players on the continuing 22 teams.*

*Almost certainly, no players will get their full slated salaries with league-wide revenue way down.

Players have expressed a variety of concerns about continuing play – safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, standard of living in a closed campus, advancing the Black Lives Matter movement. For someone to choose not to play would be a heavy decision. It feels crass to treat him more harshly financially than a suspended player.

There’s not necessarily an easy way to handle this unprecedented situation. Nobody signed up to play games under these circumstances. It’s also tough to make a case that owners should pay players who choose not to play.

In practical terms, players who choose to sit out would lose 9%-41% of their salaries, based on this reporting. The continuing 22 teams will each play eight seeding games plus potentially one or two play-in games and up to 28 games through the playoffs.

For the three players most commonly linked to sitting out, here would be their lost wages:

Obviously, it’s highly unlikely any team reaches a Game 7 in every round, especially a team that participates in a play-in. So, the high end of these ranges are mostly theoretical.

But if enough players sit out to force the NBA to cancel the rest of the season, lost 2019-20 salaries would be just the start of financial ramifications for players. Owners would almost certainly terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement, leaving players locked out and negotiating at a time NBA games are less valuable.

Back to this season… Irving almost certainly won’t have his salary docked. He underwent season-ending surgery. His injury excuses him – with pay.

Really, I wonder whether any players – whatever their main reason(s) for not returning – will actually have their salaries reduced for not playing. NBA players put their bodies through incredible physical tolls. Some could undergo surgery for a lingering issue that doesn’t necessarily need to be addressed immediately but would make them legitimately unavailable. There’s a playbook for this.

But it’s a shame players would have to resort to that type of subterfuge just to get treated better than a suspended player.