George Cohen Rumors

NBA commissioner David Stern delivered the Players Association a take-it-or-leave-it offer, threatening the owners’ proposals will become substantially worse if the union doesn’t accept the deal by Wednesday. The league’s latest proposal was derived from compromises federal mediator George Cohen suggested in Saturday’s negotiating session and included a revenue split that would range from 49 to 51 percent for the players. Stern said union attorney Jeffrey Kessler rejected the proposal. “Hope springs eternal and we’d love to see the union accept the proposal that’s now on the table,” Stern said.
Jordan is on the other side of the table now, and it is beyond a little bit suspicious that he is now suddenly being portrayed as the leader of a ruthless ownership faction that is dictating the negotiating strategy of commissioner David Stern. These owners, we are being asked to believe, would rather shut down their sport at the height of its global growth spurt than meet somewhere in the middle on the split of revenues. I am calling bullshit on them. This is a con, and all it is meant to do is put pressure on union negotiators to take the league’s “best and final offer” (actually, those words have yet to come out of Stern’s mouth) when that type of offer is put on the table today (or tomorrow, or Monday) with federal mediator George Cohen overseeing the proceedings.
A source from each side said only the full bargaining committees are expected at the afternoon negotiating session, but the list of attendees is fluid and could change. There also has been no word from the league on whether it will agree to the return of federal mediator George Cohen, or perhaps another mediator, at Saturday’s talks. Union chief Billy Hunter said Thursday he welcomed a return to mediated talks.
However, sources told The Post it is still unlikely to happen. Decertification can kill the season as easily as it could end the lockout. Furthermore, without union permission, they need 30-percent of the players to sign petitions for an election before the NLRB and then need a majority player vote to decertify, sources said. “Not an easy process,’’ one source said. Meanwhile, the Players Association and its 13-member player executive committee held a three-hour, rallying-session meeting yesterday and invited writers to their offices to try to show they are unified and claim Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter have no rift as reported. Hunter put his arm around Fisher for emphasis. Tomorrow’s union-owners meeting was initiated by federal mediator George Cohen, who called Hunter earlier this week, asking to get back into the fray after failing last month. Hunter said he wants Cohen involved tomorrow. Stern has not signed off on it.
Cohen spent more than 24 hours over two days refereeing the talks last month, only to see them blow up over the contentious issue of the BRI split. The same thing happened without Cohen on Friday, and while sources believe union chief Billy Hunter wouldn’t have been permitted to walk away from the table with a line in the sand drawn at a 52-48 split in favor of the players, it’s not clear whether Cohen would’ve been able to elicit enough compromise to keep the talks going. So while bringing the mediator back into the room couldn’t hurt, I have a better idea. To borrow a phrase from commissioner David Stern: mediator, schmediator. Breaking the impasse and securing a handshake on a new CBA so the NBA can reopen for business really only requires two people to be in the room: 1) Stern, and 2) Hunter.
One part of the story is that federal mediator George Cohen was effective. While he was not able to inspire final consensus last week, he did force meaningful progress on several of the trickier issues. Also, having blown through chances to prevent the lockout, the cancellation of the preseason and missing the first weeks of the regular season, both sides appear to be genuinely motivated to meet the next deadline, coming any day now, which is the latest possible day to make a deal while preserving the chance of an 82-game season.
On that front, sources said the National Labor Relations Board is expected to make a decision about the players association’s July complaint regarding unfair bargaining practices by the owners within two weeks. According to a prominent NLRB attorney, the players have a greater shot at ending the lockout at the bargaining table than relying on the NLRB or federal court. Washington labor attorney Jay Krupin, who has represented NHL and MLB teams, including the Yankees and Mets, told The Post the players association’s bid for victory with the NLRB is “all theater.’’
But with the two sides returning to the table, those plans have been put on hold, at least temporarily. So far, the first 100 games of the season, from Nov. 1-14, have been canceled. It seems a given that the 102 games to be played Nov. 15-28 also will go up in smoke if there is no deal reached in the next few days, since the league needs about 30 days from the time a deal is struck to return to full operations.
Six days after talks broke off in a nasty public dispute, NBA owners and players will return to the bargaining table today, the Daily News has learned. The two sides are scheduled to meet in a midtown Manhattan hotel, according to league sources. When they broke off talks last Thursday, the two sides were miles apart on a new deal. The resumption of talks is the reason the league held off on the cancellation of at least two more weeks of the regular season. The Daily News reported on its website Monday that the league intended yesterday to announce the cancellation of games from at least Nov. 15-28.
The NBA and its players union will go back to the negotiating table Wednesday for yet another attempt to resolve their differences in collective bargaining and end the four-month lockout. A person with knowledge of the situation told Newsday that the sides will get together in Manhattan to resume talks that broke down last Thursday after three days of mediation. It is not known if the NBA has dropped its precondition that the union agree to a 50-50 split of league revenue, which was what union executive director Billy Hunter said led to the owners abruptly ending what had been viewed as constructive talks presided over by federal mediator George Cohen .
Eight owners signed a petition that demanded Stern address the small market/big market financial disparity they felt was a serious and growing problem. Obviously, they didn’t need to write him a letter like he was their local representative in Congress; he works for them. They did so to make a symbolic point and then released the letter to some media outlets to make sure the issue became public. It read: “We are asking you to embrace this issue because the hard truth is that our current economic system works only for larger-market teams and a few teams that have extraordinary success on the court and for the latter group of teams, only when they experience extraordinary success. The rest of us are looking at significant and unacceptable annual financial losses.”