“Let me just single out one owner in particular, Michael Jordan,” Silver said during his upbeat update on CBA negotiations this week following the Board of Governors meetings in Manhattan. “I think having Michael Jordan as part of our negotiating committee, the unique perspective he brings to the bargaining table because of his playing career, having been, of course, a superstar player. Now for players to see him in that position, it doesn’t mean that if Michael says it, it necessarily means that they accept that as the position they should take. But I think that’s really added a special element unique to this league.”
“The reports aren’t far off, but we’re not quite there, yet,” Silver said Tuesday morning on ESPN’s Mike & Mike. “I think we’ve had very productive meetings … both sides came to the table with a spirit of partnership, with a sense that things are going very well in the league right now. As I just mentioned, we’ve had a huge influx of money because our new television deals and I think both sides understood that we would both be blamed if we screwed this up, given the amount of money we were dividing between the teams and the players.
Michele Roberts: Bear in mind, the average stay in the NBA for our players is just about four years. For those four years, a lot of things have to go right in order for it to be, at the end of the day, at the end of that player’s life, a meaningful experience. I’m not negotiating for guys that are going to be able to play for 20 or 30 years and continue to enjoy an income. That may not be the case for owners who can own their teams and enjoy that forever and then pass it on to their children.
JW: Someone once told me you don’t want to win a labor negotiation in a rout. Both sides have to go back to their constituents, hold up their hands, say, ‘Look what we got!’ Do you believe that? Roberts: I wouldn’t mind routing the league, I’m not going to lie to you. [Laughs] Having said that, every negotiation—most negotiations I should say—end up with each side saying, ‘I wanted more or I gave away more than what I wanted to give away.’ That’s what the nature of negotiation is. A rout creates motives to be vengeful. Winning today may simply be winning today. One of the things that we are not doing is looking back. We’re looking forward. What’s helpful is realizing that what’s done is done. We need to worry about tomorrow. I wouldn’t sit here and lie to you and tell you I would not like to get 80% of BRI. That’s a rout. But I’ll settle for a fair deal.
JW: What sticks out to you in the CBA as unfair or problematic that people might not know about? Roberts: Well, everyone knows about the salary cap. I don’t know that people are aware, or as aware, of how restrictive player movement is. I mean, most of us view a job as obviously something that’s necessary in order to pay the bills, but we also don’t view the job as a place of servitude. I probably don’t want to use that word and shouldn’t. But we all appreciate and enjoy the right to say, ‘This doesn’t work for me.’ Or, ‘This is fine, but this is a better opportunity.’ I don’t think most of us think that we are somehow required to stay at a job, especially when we think that there’s a better opportunity for us elsewhere.
Roberts: The really bad taste in the players’ mouths was certainly reflected in the division of income that changed. I mean they went from having 57% of the income to a presumed 51%. So that obviously was not well received. But the really bad taste was being locked out. I mean, these guys want to play ball. Just as the fans were agonizing about not being able to watch basketball being played, these men were agonizing about not being able to play.