Charles Grantham Rumors
“One, the first challenge is again to get back to the concept that it’s got to be an institutional response — how does the institution create the protection for the players?” he said. “[Roberts’s] challenge is to rally the troops and unite the troops and get them into a position of understanding the business side of the sport, which is always the most difficult part because our players are very active playing in their careers and if they’re asked to do two things at once . . . [and] we expect that they know everything else about the collective bargaining agreement. “That road to having a four- or five-year NBA experience is a difficult one and we keep forgetting it’s in a fish bowl and they’re 19, 20, 21 [years old]. They are growing in front of our eyes but we expect them to make mature decisions. That’s the challenge, not to follow them but to lead them.”
Former executive director Charles Grantham said it will be significant responsibility for the neophyte executive director. “The biggest challenge for [the NBPA] is the [potential] lockout,” said Grantham, who teaches at New York University and Seton Hall. “The question is for the last three times, there has been probably 15 or 16 givebacks or concessions that [the players’ union] made over this period of time that puts them at the bottom. “It starts with preparation and being prepared for this thing [a lockout] that we all know is coming. After three successive collective bargaining negotiations from management side, all that began with the  lockout and put the union in a concessionary bargaining position. The day is gone when you used to be able to tell players to save money. You can’t do that.”
That is the consensus among league executives and prominent agents. But it is articulated particularly well by Charles Grantham, who worked for the union from 1978-95, serving as its executive director for the last seven of those years (he left a year before Billy Hunter, who was deposed last year amid scandal, took over). No replacement for Hunter has been named, and that’s just one element feeding lockout fears. “Ideally, whether labor or management, you begin work on the next negotiation the day after you sign the last agreement,” said Grantham. “For the players, they have not been able to do that. They still need to find a director, and once they have one, they need to assemble a team and work on a strategy. They’re way behind.”
“Don’t confuse resolve with good judgment,” Grantham said. “Hockey players had good resolve. No one can say how strong the kids were for standing up for what they believed in, but they made the wrong judgment. You’ve got to make the right judgment here. And once the fight is over, you get back to work and you live another day.”
Charles Grantham worked for the players’ union from 1978 to ’95, serving as its executive director for the last seven years, and doubts the current course for the players — with the first six weeks of the regular season already wiped out — will yield the desired result. “Quite frankly, I’ve always taken a position that I thought the job of the union was to keep the players working, and that the amount of loss that would be represented here would be astronomical for those that play and the people who work in the system,” said Grantham, an adjunct professor on professional sports negotiations at Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business. “I think at a certain point, it became emotional and it kind of got off the track, while they were close to a deal. They should’ve made one.”
So players who anticipated needing to stretch their income the last few years to compensate for not getting paid during the lockout doesn’t equal leverage? That’s what I call resolve. I understand that resolve creates leverage. I’m saying the resolve and bad judgment creates no leverage. The lawsuit does not create leverage. … When you think through this whole thing you have to come back and ask yourself where average salaries are and where average salaries will be guaranteed to go by the end of the deal. The forecast is revenue will continue to rise. As long as your salaries are tied to that revenue, then the average salary will continue to increase.
So you’re suggesting the players’ emotion got in the way of common sense? I’ve always felt what’s most important thing in these negotiations and how you prepare from a business standpoint. It seems in the last month, maybe even from the very beginning, they brought too much emotion to negotiation and to a large degree that has driven them to a point that their resolve has been challenged. It’s not a question of resolve but the judgment that’s most important. If you go back and think about what happened in the NHL, they had a lot of resolve for the whole year. They missed the entire year. The union leadership failed to diagnose the winds of change that a salary cap is coming. They failed to recognize that was true. They had great resolve but made a poor judgment. I see that as similar here.
How does the NBA’s claim that 23 teams are losing money factor into this negotiation? If you buy the concept that the league is losing money and their teams are having difficulty you have to be concerned about that as a union because you don’t want the prospect of losing any teams. I’m not certain this move is good for the them. I can see where it’s good for the antitrust attorneys who might be charging as much as $1 million a week in fees or the agents who see that seven-point swing (from 57% to 50% BRI) as adding up over time as quite a bit of money. But it also is money that hasn’t been earned. Theoretically you’re losing that money, but at the same time the pie is bigger and the average salary is increasing.
Charles Grantham was executive director of the National Basketball Players Association from 1988-95, guiding them through record growth until he resigned after a disagreement with the executive board and then-union president Buck Williams. Grantham was part of the union during the signing four collective bargaining agreements since 1980. Grantham weighed in on the inability of NBA Commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter to reach a deal when he talked with USA TODAY’s J. Michael Falgoust this week: So what do you make of the players’ decision to dissolve the union and go the legal route? I certainly think the overall players should’ve had the opportunity to vote on whether or not to proceed. You’ve got the group that disclaimed the union which are the reps and the executive committee, the 200 or so players who are (supposedly) being led by 25 agents and that big middle group we haven’t heard from — the average guy who is risking his salary between $4 and $5 million.