It appears that the NBA Players’ Union (NBPA) is prepared to play this game of chicken all the way out as reports surfaced yesterday that they are unlikely to accept the latest proposal submitted by the owners. NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter was quoted as saying “It’s not the greatest proposal in the world, but I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership. So that’s what we’re going to do,” not exactly the most encouraging words from a fan’s perspective. All indications are that the players are fully prepared to move forward with decertification of the union sometime in the near future, setting the stage for a lengthy legal battle with ownership that will almost certainly put the 2011-2012 season in jeopardy.
While the players’ resolve in trying to get the best system in place possible is admirable, at some point they have to realize that the owners hold all of the chips here. Hardly anyone would argue that the latest proposal is the fairest offer, but as this battle drags on, it is only going to get worse. Some players have stated that taking this hard-line stance is important for the future of the league and players that will come after them, but to the casual fan, it’s hard to make that argument when no system is going to prevent even marginal players from being able to amass lifetime earnings of eight figures in a fairly short time span. Both sides are losing the public relations battle, but the owners could literally care less about that. I’m quite certain that they didn’t make the kind of money that has earned them the right to own professional sports franchises by losing sleep over their Q rating.
The owners are clearly not bargaining in good faith, which is what the NBPA is banking on should this case go to court, but even a victory in a lengthy court battle will end up as a net loss for all of the NBA players. Missing a season or more worth of checks is going to hurt, and they will have no chance to get that money back in the future.