February 8, 2010 in Sports

Labor issues could overshadow All-Star week

Upcoming negotiations expected to be tough
Brian Mahoney Associated Press
 

NEW YORK – The NFL’s party week was briefly interrupted by a sobering message about the league’s labor situation.

Now it could be the NBA’s turn.

The league’s collective bargaining agreement also will expire in 2011, and management and the players’ association will meet next weekend during the All-Star events in Dallas as they try to negotiate a new one.

Indications are it won’t be easy. CBSSports.com, citing a person familiar with the document, reported that the first proposal the league sent the union last week called for a reduction of the players’ share of the basketball-related income from 57 percent to below 50, as well as reductions in the length and amount of maximum value contracts, and elements of a “hard” salary cap to replace the current system that forces teams exceeding the cap to pay a luxury tax.

Neither the league nor the union have commented about the proposal, but it will surely be a topic when commissioner David Stern, and perhaps players’ association executive director Billy Hunter, meets with the media on Saturday.

Last week before the Super Bowl in Miami, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL’s players union, strongly warned of a potential lockout. He called the chances of football not being played in 2011 after the league’s CBA expires a “14” on a scale of 1 to 10.

Stern said he will not ask Hunter to avoid saying anything similar that would spoil the good times in Dallas, where the league is expecting Cowboys Stadium to host the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game.

“There’s nothing that I could or would do with respect to Billy’s ability to say anything,” Stern told the Associated Press. “That’s his job, that’s his obligation and we understand it. We could go to the table and switch sides and argue the other side. That’s just the reality of it and so eventually there will be a deal, and we hope it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”

The league’s last lockout reduced the 1999 season to 50 games. Stern has been optimistic that starting talks early will help prevent another work stoppage.

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