It’s come to this. The NBA owners and players will meet later today to try one more time — not to get a deal — but to make significant progress in their negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
There is no rule or law that says there has to be a work stoppage. Both sides could continue on under the old CBA while they work to forge a new one. The players won’t strike, and won’t even take the owners to court so long as the two sides are talking. And the owners don’t have to lock the doors.
The best hope right now is that the owners decide they’d rather keep talking than lock the doors after a fantastic NBA Finals that set TV ratings records (in the cable age, at least).
But it doesn’t sound good. The Associated Press is reporting the following:
There was an informal vote taken in the players’ meeting last Thursday in New York, where an overwhelming majority of the room insisted they would go the distance with the union. The owners want rollbacks on existing contracts, a hard salary cap and provisions that make owning and operating a profitable franchise a paint-by-numbers enterprise. The NBA and union will meet one final time on Thursday before a lockout comes on July 1, and there are many on the players’ side who wonder why they’ll even bother.
“Just look at the proposal the owners have made: How do you expect anyone to respond to that in good faith?” agent Mark Bartelstein said. “It’s laughable. GMs around the league have acknowledged that to me. Every GM has acknowledged that there’s nowhere for the players to go with what’s been proposed by the owners.
“The system doesn’t work for the players now, because it’s so restrictive. It doesn’t work for the owners because they’ve made a lot of bad decisions. That’s the reality. This is a horrible system for the NBA player, incredibly restrictive in every way you look at it. If the NBA owners can’t be successful in this system, blame that on nothing but poor management.”
Maybe the agents should shut up and stay out of it. But their bread is buttered by the continuation of business, so what well-minded agent would stay out of it? They have a role and they certainly talk to more of the league’s GMs than I do.
But I can say with strong confidence that I’ve been involved in more collective bargaining negotiations than most sports agents. These days, employees do not get locked out. The workforce doesn’t walk out and set up a 24-hour picket. While the two sides in almost every contract negotiations negotiate, business continues until the differences are sorted out.
Or until the company heads to the deep South or Mexico, where there are no labor unions and management can do what it pleases in the “right to screw your employees environment.”
The NBA, of course, is not going anywhere.
And its employees (the players) are not going to strike.
So our best hope is that the owners realize that their product is better now than it’s been in over a decade, that the American and worldwide audience has registered and verified its interest in the product, and that business should continue while progress is being made.
It’s the American way these days. It works. It works every time. Now we just need to see enough progress today to ensure that the owners see the folly of shutting down the game, even for a little while.