AP source: NBA won't talk without 50-50 deal

October 7, 2011 - 8:00 PM
NBA Labor

Derek Fisher, center, President of the National Basketball Player's Association, and Billy Hunter, right, the Executive Director of the National Basketball Player's Association, hold a press conference following labor talks between NBA players and owners on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA players' association wanted a meeting and said the league would grant one — under one condition.

Just agree first to a 50-50 split of revenues.

Players already rejected that offer once. The league confirmed it wasn't moving beyond that number but wanted to meet about other issues, and it said the union wasn't interested.

All that matters: An on-time start to the NBA season now seems even less likely.

Commissioner David Stern has said the league will cancel the first two weeks of the regular season if the sides can't reach a labor agreement by Monday, and it now appears the sides won't even talk before then.

According to a person close to the union, players were seeking a session before the deadline, but were told it came with a precondition of agreeing to the 50-50 revenue split.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity Friday because talks are being kept private, told The Associated Press the union will go on with plans to meet with players Saturday in Miami, where a number of All-Stars are playing in a charity game, and Monday in Los Angeles.

The league discussed a 50-50 split with union officials Tuesday, but talks broke down soon after it was rejected. Players were guaranteed 57 percent of basketball-related income under the previous collective bargaining agreement and have proposed lowering it to 53 percent in a new deal.

No further talks have been scheduled, and union executive director Billy Hunter has said it could be a month or two before the sides meet again. And while there had been no formal discussions since Tuesday, there was an expectation they would try to talk sometime before the end of the weekend.

"We told the union today that we were willing to meet as early as Sunday," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said. "We also advised them that we were unwilling to move above the 50-50 split of revenues that was discussed between the parties on Tuesday but that we wanted to meet with them to discuss the many remaining open issues. The union declined."

If things don't change, the NBA will have its first shortened season since the 1998-99 schedule was reduced to 50 games by a work stoppage. The entire preseason schedule already has been scrapped.

Each BRI percentage point is worth about $40 million, so the sides are some $120 million apart in the first year of a deal, with the union proposing 53 percent and the league suggesting the 50-50 split.

Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver seemed to leave hope the league would improve its offer when he said after Tuesday's meeting that "our indication today to go to a 50-50 deal demonstrates even more potential movement on our part. So we haven't made a secret of the fact that we'd very much like to make a deal."

Hunter reiterated that 53 percent was the players' number. And if they were planning to reconsider the 50-50 offer, that didn't seem to be the case in the letter that he and union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers sent Wednesday to players and obtained by The Associated Press and other media outlets.

"Reducing our share of BRI by 7 points to 50 (percent) — a level we have not received since the early 1990's — is simply not a fair split. We refused to back down," they wrote. "As we have done since the beginning, we again indicated a willingness to compromise, and asked the owners to do the same. They refused."

The question is whether it's offered again. Stern and Silver were both careful to point out that the 50-50 concept wasn't a formal proposal, an important distinction in the language of bargaining. So Stern was asked if that meant the owners were officially back at the 53-47 split in their favor.

"Back schmack," he said. "You know, we're not ... we're ready to meet and discuss any subject anyone wants to talk about. We'd like not to lose the first two weeks of the season, but it doesn't look good."

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