With collective bargaining between NBA owners and players reaching a pivotal point this week, 43 players attended a union meeting in New York City on Tuesday, with 29 of the NBA’s 30 teams represented.
The turnout, which included Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, allowed the union to get what president Derek Fisher called “an extremely specific and focused gauge on where our players stand at this point.”
Their position kept the start of the 2011-12 NBA season out of view.
“Our orders are clear,” Fisher said. “Right now, the current offer that is on the table from the NBA is not one that we can accept.”
Fisher said the union is willing to continue to negotiate with the league, even if those talks called for the players association to concede more of its share of basketball revenue. But Fisher said certain systemic issues in a ratified collective bargaining agreement such as sign-and-trades, the mid-level exception and luxury tax penalties still must be negotiated before a deal can be reached.
NBA Commissioner David Stern had given the players union until the close of business Wednesday to accept the league’s latest offer or future proposals will revert to a smaller share of revenue for players and a more restrictive salary cap.
Though union executive director Billy Hunter admitted there are differences of opinion among the league’s 400-plus players regarding what course the union should take, he said Tuesday’s meeting contained very little talk of decertification. Hunter also labeled Stern’s ultimatum an “artificial threat” and said he thinks the league will revert to a 50-50 split in revenues.
Fisher, meanwhile, said the consensus among the players was to not accept a bad deal. And Fisher called the current proposal a bad deal.
“They wanted to continue to make the effort to negotiate and get a deal done,” Fisher said of the players. “But not under any circumstances will they give us the ability to negotiate from a position of weakness and being given ultimatums and demanded that we have to accept a particular deal.
“These players make up the body of the NBA and provide the talent and the product for what this game is. And we want to have a voice in the way of the working conditions and the system with which we agree to, regardless of the percentage. These guys want to have a voice in how that system is composed and don’t want to be told how they have to go to work, where they have to work and what conditions they will work. They want to have a voice in that process, and that’s simply what our focus will continue to be.”