Chaos within NBA players union

The executive director of the National Basketball Association players’ association, Billy Hunter. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS BASKETBALL)

Adrian Wojnarowski has the latest on the turmoil within the NBA players association, and the picture isn’t pretty.

After Billy Hunter made the grand stand of marching out of Friday’s bargaining session, refusing to negotiate below 52 percent of the NBA’s revenue split, a strong movement within the Players Association emerged that vowed the union will never let him act so unilaterally again.

From superstars to midlevel players to rookies, there’s an unmistakable push to complete the final elements of the system and take this labor deal to the union’s 400-plus membership. Beyond that, there’s an even larger movement to push Hunter, the Players Association’s executive director, out the door once these labor talks are done. All hell’s broken loose within the union, and no one is exactly sure how they’re going to get a deal to the finish line.

“Billy can’t just say it’s 52 or nothing, and walk out again,” one league source involved with the talks told Yahoo! Sports. “That will not happen again. It’s time that the players get to make a decision on this, and there won’t be another check lost before they do.”

Rest assured, there’s a vast gulf in the union, and it’s growing with the passing of every day. Players Association president Derek Fisher’s(notes) letter to the players convinced no one otherwise. NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners know it, and it’s part of the reason they won’t raise their offer of the BRI revenue split to 51 percent. There are system issues that need to be resolved for players, but this deal gets done at 50-50, and that’s been true for a long, long time.

In the end, there are two courses for the union: Take the deal largely on the table or blow this up, decertify and lose the season fighting the NBA in the federal courts.

Only, it’s too late to decertify. Everyone wanted to do it back in July when the lockout started, and Hunter refused. His decision had nothing to do with legal strategy, nothing to do with leverage or getting the best possible deal for the players. It had everything to do with what it always does with Hunter: self-preservation. He worried about losing power, losing his job, and he sold everyone on a toothless National Labor Relations Board claim that’s going nowhere.

Jason Whitlock has a different view, putting more blame on Fisher.

Either way, the whole situation is a mess. I tend to think Fisher is right here, realizing that the players can only push this so far.

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NBAPA supports players going to Europe

The executive director of the National Basketball Association players’ association, Billy Hunter, speaks to reporters after taking part in contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York June 30, 2011. The NBA was on the verge of its first work stoppage in 13 years after negotiations over a new labor deal collapsed hours before the current collective bargaining agreement expires, the union representing players said on Thursday. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS BASKETBALL)

Per ESPN…

In a memo sent to players on Tuesday night and obtained by ESPN on Wednesday, [Billy Hunter] said the NBPA supports all players “who are taking steps to continue to earn a living, stay in peak competitive shape, and play the game that we love while the unfortunate league-imposed lockout is in place.”

“This lockout is intended to economically pressure our players to agree to an unfavorable collective bargaining agreement,” Hunter wrote. “It is important for the owners to understand that there may be significant consequences to their decision to put their own players in these difficult economic circumstances.

“If the owners will not give our players a forum in which to play basketball here in the United States, they risk losing the greatest players in the world to the international basketball federations that are more than willing to employ them.”

This support flies in the face of Stephen A. Smith’s assertion that Deron Williams is selfish for signing a one-year deal to play in Turkey. If the players are able to prove that they can find work elsewhere, it will put them in a position of power since it will prove that the owners need them more than they need the owners. Not everyone is going to go overseas, but that doesn’t really change the dynamic within the union. Deron Williams wants to lockout to end just like every other player in the league, whether he plays in Turkey or not.

Here’s an idea — every player that plays elsewhere during the lockout puts 25% of his pay into a slush fund that will be distributed amongst all mid-level and lower players in the union. That way, those rank and file players will keep getting paychecks (however small) and the union’s position will be that much stronger. No one would question the union’s togetherness with such a system in place.

There’s a CBA storm brewing

Whenever I see the acronym “CBA,” I still think of the Continental Basketball Association, which is apparently still around, but only had four teams to start the season — the Albany Patroons, the East Kentucky Miners, the Lawton-Fort Sill Calvary and the Minot Skyrockets. Seriously.

CBA also stands for the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, which is essentially the agreement between the league, owners and its players regarding salary cap structure, trades, length/size of contracts, etc. Commissioner David Stern wants a major overhaul to account for the number of franchises in financial straits, but Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Player’s Association says the current system is just fine.

“One of the principle issues is that some owners are having a hard time with cash flow,” Hunter said. “I don’t see why that automatically means more give-backs from the players. It seems to me a new revenue-sharing plan among the owners is one of the things they have to look at. Then you wouldn’t be looking to the players every time there’s a shortfall.”

The current labor pact, signed in July, 2005, will expire in June, 2011. No substantive talks with the league on a subsequent deal will begin until after July 1, Hunter said, because union president Derek Fisher and other board members are involved in the playoffs. The current system guarantees the players 57 percent of basketball-related revenue (BRI).

Hunter declined to outline what the players might be seeking in the new deal, but a source said repealing the age limit, reducing the amount of player salaries held in escrow, loosening rules concerning restricted free agents and changing the league’s disciplinary system top the list.

The biggest points of contention are likely to be the age limit and the disciplinary system. The current deal requires a player to be 19 — and one year removed from high school in the U.S. — before he is draft-eligible. There has been talk that the league would like to raise the limit by another year, but one union source said “90 percent” of the current players are against it now.

Hunter’s logic is interesting…

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