Raul Barrigon: Adam Silver on CBA deal talks with Michele Roberts: “We continue to talk all the time. I think Michele Roberts and I both have the same goal which is to avoid any sort of work stoppage. And we know one of the ways to avoid a work stoppage is to talk early and often. And we’re doing that.”
The players can opt out of the current 10-year pact in 2017, but the NBPA would rather have a new collective bargaining agreement in place before opting out. Roberts told the Globe in June that the sides would begin negotiating in August. “Since the day Michele took the job, we’ve been talking on a regular basis,” commissioner Adam Silver told the Globe. “I think we’ve both been clear that our jobs are to bring stability to the league and to continue and build on the success we’ve had. We’re looking forward to engaging with the union. We have a labor relations committee formed. She has her executive committee. We hope to get together this fall and continue the discussions we’ve been having on a staff level.”
The league and the union have not held a formal bargaining session, per sources on both sides, though they are working to schedule one soon. Both sides have flip-flopped between apocalyptic rhetoric and nicey-nice talk, and we should always assume all public comments are negotiating tactics designed to nudge the scales of leverage. Perhaps Roberts recognizes the players are munching half of an ever-growing revenue pie and don’t have the resources to outlast hawkish owners who might want to hog more than half of that pie. Roberts may be pressuring Silver to massage those hawks so the money train can roll on.
Roberts confirmed via email that she and Silver have indeed talked about those specifics, but she added a cautionary note: “That is accurate,” Roberts says. “That is the goal. We did discuss that timeline, though it is not a deadline. It is more aptly described as an aspiration or goal.” Silver declined comment through a league spokesman.
Add it all up, and a few teams might feel a profitability crunch over the first year or two (or three) of the new TV deal — even with all of that cash flooding the system. The owners of those teams might look at a lockout as the chance to seize another percentage point or two of total league revenue from the players. One percent of $7 billion is larger than one percent of $4 billion; every percentage point means more now. Those owners also understand that the 2011 lockout, as ugly and protracted as it was, did not interrupt the league’s soaring popularity curve. The new national TV deal requires broadcast partners, including ESPN, to pay the league even during a work stoppage, according to league sources. Owners would lose gate receipts from canceled games, but these are billionaires with a locked-in TV mega-deal. They can outlast the players, and they know it.
The league’s revenue-sharing system is a maze of equations, benchmarks, and other triggers that determine how much a team pays or receives. Some teams play in markets so large, they are prohibited from receiving any revenue-sharing money at all. Others have to hit minimum revenue benchmarks, based in part on market size, to get their fair share. There are also rules that cut off the revenue-sharing fountain once a team has reached a certain (very small) level of profitability for that year, per several league sources.
How can the potential lockout be avoided in 2017? “Sitting down at a table already now with the NBA to understand what worries the owners and what worries the players. In the past very few attempts to speak in advance of the problems that led to the lockouts have been made. Whether Both commissioner Silver and myself want to do everything possible to prevent the NBA to stop: the only way is to negotiate. We have already started, we will meet again in early September with the hope to announce within the end of the season that the union and the league have solved their problems. ”