A group of dissident NBA players, led by Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, pressed ahead Wednesday with its plans to decertify the union, saying the tentative collective bargaining agreement reached earlier this month was insufficient.
Thirty-three players participated in the news conference, either on stage at a Chicago hotel or by conference call, like Jordan.
A vote to decertify the union or accept the agreement is planned for Aug. 30 and Sept. 7. Results are scheduled to be announced Sept. 12.
Jeffrey Kessler, counsel for the dissident players, said the new deal is inadequate.
“It is a rollback and full of givebacks,” he said. “Players have decided they are going to vote for decertification and they believe in the elections Aug. 30 and Sept. 7 that the union will be decertified.”
It is not known, however, if Kessler’s statement is accurate. While stars like Jordan and Ewing have led the insurgents, several of the league’s biggest names--John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Mark Price--were on the podium to show support when the tentative agreement was reached and announced Aug. 8.
“The players will get their days in court and this will be the best way to ensure basketball is played,” Kessler continued. “None of the players want to strike and none of them want to see the season interrupted one bit. What these players want is fair treatment.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern countered that the deal is fair, adding Kessler’s group has lost some of its strength.
“I believe that the support for the decertification movement is dwindling, and on Aug. 30 and Sept. 7 that our players will vote to accept this deal, which is a fair and rich deal, and there will be a season.
“We’ve gone the last mile here. We’ve sat down with our players and we’re not going to negotiate with anyone but the proper collective bargaining agreement.”
Kessler listed the main points that he said are wrong with the deal tentatively approved earlier this month.
He said almost all exceptions to the salary cap are eliminated, making free agency worthless. He claimed that the so-called Larry Bird exception, by which a team can go over the salary cap to re-sign its free agents, had been watered down. He also said players should be in charge of licensing rights.
Throughout the news conference, Jordan, Ewing and Alonzo Mourning--all clients of David Falk--stressed that the new deal would mostly be unfair to middle-of-the-road players and not superstars like themselves.