Oh NBA, Where Art Thou?
The culmination of the NHL and NBA seasons can bring sheer terror to some sports fans. Beyond the Stanley Cup and the NBA Championship lies an ever-exciting trifecta of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Major League Baseball and ggollff…,.,;’..(sorry, I fell asleep just typing it). Don’t get me wrong, watching these three sporting events can be quite exhilarating in person. In fact, several acquaintances maintain that NASCAR events offer the best people watching; baseball fans can dole out $9 per beer and have about a 1 in 600 chance of catching a foul ball; golf tournaments are four days long (which is about nine years in human time) permit the latest in fashion. Short of a better-than-average attention span, most sports fans (myself included) take advantage of their DVRs and roll through their favorite NHL or NBA games of seasons past. These fans are in denial (again, myself included).
The NHL collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires this September 12th of this year. The NBA CBA, however, expires TONIGHT!! How long the negotiations will last is anybody’s guess. My guess is long, very long. We are a long ways away from any actual games and NBA players are (for the majority) a little more secure financially–but not by much. Indeed, the NBA has a tendency to drag things out (watch the last four minutes of any game). And if the NFL lockout debacle is any harbinger, the rigmarole of NBA negotiations could last through eternity. Owners and players are meeting in Dallas today amidst an already-cancelled NBA summer season. So what’s on the negotiation table?
The biggest issue is money. No real surprise here. After opening up their books to players (owners were obliged to because they claimed they couldn’t pay), NBA officials claim that 22 of the 30 NBA teams lost money last year (e.g., the Wizards), which the players Union disputes. To solve this, owners want a larger share of revenue, shorter guaranteed contracts and a harder salary cap. Players are quite content with the existing state of affairs. After all, ratings are high and so are player salaries.
Currently, players receive 57 percent of all revenue compared to 43 percent for the owners. The owners are propose a 61-39 split. They’ve also suggested taking the first $900 million off the top of revenue and dividing the remainder 50-50. This could be analogized to wiping the icing from a cake and splitting the subsequent spongy stuff. Fair, if you got the sweet part.
The owners also are suggesting a 10-year deal, which could put the league in a great position to gain the most when the league’s TV deals with TNT and ESPN expire in five years.
The players on the other hand want a five-year deal so they can leave ope the possibility of renegotiation once the TV deals end. This would be ideal if the NBA keep progressing. They’ve also proposed giving back $100 million per season over the next five years to reduce the shared revenue guaranteed to them.
Players Union representatives Derek Fisher and Maurice Evans will want to adhere to the current CBA as much as possible in negotiations. Evans recently offered, “[W]e need to negotiate from the current system.” For players, it’s a great place to start. Players have a lot of leverage in the NBA. “Players have been so well paid for so long, they can hold out for longer than most of the other sports,” says Marc Ganis from SportsCorp. He also adds that “NBA players don’t have the same [financial] issues as NFL players, who are very eager to get back on the field.”
Whether labor negotiations are happening on the field or the court, fans are left with the same old option: sit back and watch. If you get tired of watching, there’s always the aforementioned trifecta. Just try not to throw anything at your television.