Commissioner David Stern: “We are going to make a deal”
The NBA Lockout is ongoing, but it seems like for the first time there’s a real sense of optimism for a deal. It’s getting extremely frustrating because things are changing constantly. One day it looks like there’s no hope and the next it looks like there’s strong progress being made only to see talks break down again. The Basketball Related Income seems to be the thing that’s really holding everything up. For the first time though, the two sides might finally be at the number that works for both. Commissioner David Stern has proposed a 50/50 split of the revenue and I think it’s the lowest the owners will possibly go in negotiations. If this is true that a 50/50 deal is on the table, the players need to take it. If they don’t I don’t see the owners going any lower, and if that’s the case I don’t see any games being played in the NBA this season.
David Stern joined ESPN Radio New York on the Stephen A. Smith Show to talk about his overall thoughts on the lockout, on the idea that the owners are not happy with a 50/50 offer, what he makes of the players saying they are making all the concessions to get a deal done, his thoughts on the comments Bryant Gumbel and some of the players have made about him publicly, and if he has thought about the possibility of not having a deal get done and missing the entire season.
On his overall thoughts about the lockout:
“Well both parties are pretty adamant about their positions. We’ve had a lot of meetings, probably 40 and we’ve narrowed the issues pretty well but currently stuck on a few. It seems like we just can’t get our act together to hone in on it and finish it off. I thought we were close last week. We had gotten to a place before where with a 50/50 deal we could’ve played 82 games but it wasn’t to be and so now I’ve persuaded our owners that we should make the 50/50 deal, hold it open, play as many games as we can, and hopefully the players will decide to do that at either a player rep meeting that they have tomorrow in New York or a subsequent that they may take to affirm a deal that the player reps recommend because on Wednesday the labor relations committee is prepared to go to another offer that is considerably lower than the one that we have on the table now.”
On owners that are not happy with the 50/50 offer:
“I think there’s some number of owners that thought the labor relations committee had moved too fast. Originally they asked for guaranteed contracts and gave it up, originally they asked for a hard cap and gave it up, originally they asked for a much lower percentage and moved to 50/50, originally they asked for mid-level exceptions and Bird contracts and gave it up, originally they asked for salary rollbacks and gave it up. That’s what happens in negotiations and I’m really good on where the labor relations committee was. I disagree with owners who feel they’ve gone too far but they’ve now gone as far as they can go and if the offer is not accepted by Wednesday at the close of business there will be a new and more difficult offer put on the table which is a recognition that it’s time to make the deal because the next offer is going to be more reflective of the business issues that the NBA is facing.”
On the idea that the players are making all the concessions:
“I would argue that if I were them also. But another view on this is by working together with us over the last number of years, 30 years or so, we’ve taken the average player salary from 250 thousand dollars a year to well over five million and if we make the changes that are in the owners current proposal we will take a small step back from the $5.5 million average salary to something above five and we will grow it over the life of the proposal to well over seven million dollars. This at a time when there’s nine percent unemployment, when all of the risk on this business is on the owners and the five or six thousand other people who help make it. We think it’s a very fair accommodation. We’re giving them the benefit really of keeping them pretty close to where they are under a system that is no longer sustainable. If you ask the people at the Ford plants, the GM plants, the other plants that no longer exist and you look at public workers and the cutbacks that are going on, we think that our players deserve to be kept as close as we possibly can to what they’ve earned under the old deal and keep them growing after we take that reset. We think it’s eminently fair and reasonable and we think that when you look around and look at the deals that are being made out there in the public sector, the private sector with give back after give back, being a member of the highest paid Union in the world whose wages and compensation continue to rise is not a bad deal.”
His thoughts on Bryant Gumbel’s comments and some of the player’s comments about him:
“On Bryant Gumbel I think that’s just an occupational hazard. If you’re the head of the league you take what everyone dishes out. With respect to the players, what I tell them is I have been working for 27 years and this partnership that we have had and will have after this ends will continue to, you know continue to grow the game globally, we will continue to have a huge digitally footprint, we will continue to make them stars of international magnitude but I understand when passion is running high and the well has been poisoned by people telling them the owners are lying to them, the owners are greedy, the owners are arrogant and none of that is true by the way. (Host: They haven’t been saying that just about the owners. They have been saying that about you.) I guess what I’m saying is if I’m leading the way for the owners that’s what they’re going to say about me too. I must tell you the good job that I’d like to think I’ve done for the NBA only works if it’s good for the owners, the players, and the fans. We’ve had a heck of a run. I feel pretty good about the fact that we’re coming off a great season, there’s a continued interest, the demise of our league was premature, and we have a spectacular product which is brought to you by the spectacular players of the NBA. When we settle this it will continue to be brought to you that way.”
Whether or not he has thought about the possibility of the season being missed:
“I refuse to contemplate it or discuss because we are going to make a deal. (Host: So you’re confident?) Unlike any other deal, if I don’t bid enough for your house you don’t have to sell it to me. Or if you ask too much I don’t have to buy it. Our players, there’s going to be a deal. The only question is how much damage is done to the game and our fans and the people who work in our industry before we make that deal.”