The NBA locked out its vacationing players today but said it was willing to continue labor negotiations with the beleaguered union.
NBA commissioner David Stern ordered the first work stoppage in league history Friday, the day a no-strike, no-lockout deal it had with the players was to expire.
“It’s a shame that the success we and our players have enjoyed as a result of working together is now in jeopardy,” Stern said.
It was the third work stoppage to affect major-league sports in the last 12 months. Baseball players went on strike last Aug. 12, and NHL owners locked out their players Sept. 30, forcing the cancellation of 468 games and a delay in the season.
The NBA and its union seemingly had a labor deal 10 days ago, but opposition to the proposal, by Michael Jordan and other bigname players, divided the union and scuttled a ratification vote.
“If that deal is no longer acceptable to the players, then we are prepared to keep negotiating,” deputy commissioner Russ Granik said.
Simon Gourdine, the union’s executive director, said he still thought an agreement was possible despite the lockout.
“We will meet with the owners shortly,” he said, “and if they are prepared to respond in a meaningful way to the concerns our players have addressed with the proposed agreement, we can resolve this work stoppage with a ratified agreement within the next few weeks.”
While the start of the 1995-96 season is more than four months away, the lockout prohibits teams from negotiating or signing contracts with free agents and the rookies selected in Wednesday’s draft. No summer leagues or tryouts will be conducted, and players will not be permitted to work out at team facilities.
“It affects players as far as any payments that might be due and benefits” such as health insurance, Granik said.
On June 21, the league and the union announced a tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expired in June 1994. It called for added revenue that would be shared with players, an increase in the salary cap from $15 million to $23 million, a luxury tax intended to tighten the cap and a rookie salary cap.
Owners ratified the six-year deal unanimously last week. But players tabled a vote on the contract, with some saying the luxury tax, which would kick in on certain large contracts, would limit salaries and prevent player movement.
“Recent events left the owners with no other option, because the players repudiated a hard-fought agreement containing compromises and difficult choices by both sides, and the moratorium that kept this league operating this past season has now expired,” Stern said.