The collective bargaining agreement between the National Basketball Association’s owners and its players expired on June 30, causing the owners to lockout their players for the first time in more than a decade.
The NBA is the second professional American sports league to lockout this year, after the National Football League locked out its players in March when the owners and players’ union failed to reach a new labor deal before the previous deal expired.
Now, the NBA and its owners are following the same tune; according to ESPN, as with the NFL lockout, the owners of the NBA claim they’ve lost hundreds of millions of dollars under the former labor deal and want the players to take a pay cut under the new collective bargaining agreement to improve the financial health of each team.
The difference between the NBA and the NFL, however, may be that the NBA owners actually have proof of taking financial losses, and that the reason for the losses may be due to the players’ much larger portion of the financial pie.
The Denver Post cited a Forbes magazine study showing that 17 NBA teams lost money during the 2009-2010 season, the most to take a loss since 1998-1999. The NBA also locked out for part of that season, leading to more than 400 missed games for all teams. NBA commissioner David Stern told the Associated Press that a similar level of financial loss occurred this past season, especially for smaller market teams such as the Denver Nuggets or the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Players have benefited from the current system more than the teams. For them it has been a much better partnership,” Stern said. “We had a great year in terms of the appreciation of our fans for our game. It just wasn’t a profitable one for the owners, and it wasn’t one that many of the smaller market teams particularly enjoyed or felt included in.”
Stern said the owners want to make adjustments to a new collective bargaining agreement which would allow all 30 NBA franchises to make a profit, and have a fair shot at competing against one another. According to ESPN, the league had proposed a new deal that would cut the players’ portion of the association’s total revenue from 57 percent to 40 percent. The players were willing to reduce their percentage, but only to about 54 percent, which they claim would cut their salaries by a total of $500 million over the next five years. That wasn’t enough for the owners, triggering a lockout until both sides can find middle ground.
Unfortunately for the fans, the lockout has already affected many of the association’s summer events and activities. The NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League, created to give the younger developing players a chance to polish their craft during the offseason, has been canceled. NBA personnel are also prohibited from contacting any players during the lockout, which will delay the official opening of offseason free agency, which was scheduled to start this July.
Many of the NBA’s stars have been seen wearing shirts that say “Stand,” which Oklahoma City Thunder all-star and Washington, D.C. native Kevin Durant said symbolizes their intentions of standing together as a union and not folding under the pressure of unreasonable demands.
“We’re going to stand up for what we have to do, no matter how long it’s going to take,” Thunder star Durant told the AP. “No matter how long the lockout’s going to take, we’re going to stand up. We’re not going to give in.”
Enduring a long lockout may not be much of a financial problem for stars like Durant, who enjoy additional income from their private endorsement deals. But for the lesser-known players who earn league-minimum contracts, missing games would be a major set-back. Fortunately, both sides are willing to continue negotiating until a deal is done.
“Obviously, the clock is now running with regard to whether or not there be a loss of games,” Players’ Union chief Billy Hunter told the AP. “I’m hoping that over the next month or so that there will be sort of a softening on their side and maybe we have to soften our position as well.”