NBA commissioner David Stern was hit with questions today about the league’s upcoming negotiations with players on a new collective bargaining agreement. The bottom line: It doesn’t look good. If this all sounds familiar, it’s because the NFL’s labor talks ended last month with the owners locking out the players and the players suing the league. (The two sides in the NFL dispute finished their second day of court-mandated mediation in Minneapolis today as a judge decides whether to grant the players’ injunction request to halt the lockout.)
By all accounts, an NBA labor standoff could make the NFL’s look like backyard touch football. Whereas the NFL’s main sticking point is how to divide $9 billion in revenue, Stern has said the NBA has been losing more than $300 million a season and offered up today during a press conference that this year’s losses could reach that figure again. (Currently, players receive 57% of the league’s gross revenue, which Stern says is unsustainable going forward.) This shortfall is despite lucrative TV broadcast contracts with ESPN/ABC and TNT that go through the 2015-16 season and pay the league more than $900 million a year. Last year’s NBA Finals and this year’s All-Star Game saw big ratings gains, and more of the same is expected for this year’s playoffs, which begin this weekend.
Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver said today that the league is prepping an offer for the NBA Players Association to be presented soon, but they reiterated that the sides are far apart as the labor contact nears its June 30 expiration date. “The current system is broken,” Silver told the gathered media, adding that the threat of a lockout already is hurting the league’s businesses. Stern said the uncertainty could affect the league’s bottom line — its fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
Today’s press conference, which followed two days of owners meetings, comes as Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson was fined by the league for comments last week regarding a potential lockout. “Who knows what the NBA is going to look like next year?” Jackson said, according to ESPN. “It’s going to take on a whole different proportion. How long is it going to last? I think there are some people who are pretty convinced there’s not going to be a year next year.”