NBA players went to the polls around the country Wednesday to decide the fate of their union and perhaps the 1995-96 season.
The turnout in Westwood had to be encouraging for league and National Basketball Players Assn. leaders. They had emphasized that mass participation was critical to defeating the insurgents, who, committed to decertifying the union, were believed to be sure to vote.
With as many as 39 players expected at the Federal Building, home to the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, for this session or another next week, 29 showed on the first day. Two others arrived just past the 5 p.m. closing time. In San Diego, where four players were on the list of expected, three players voted.
“If you had asked me [Tuesday], I would have told you it would be decertified,” San Antonio’s Jack Haley said. “Today, being here, talking to a lot of people, I think it’s going to be a very close vote that will be pro-union.”
Among the 29 who marched among reporters, TV crews and government employees seeking autographs, five disclosed their ballots. Haley, Byron Scott, Olden Polynice, Eric Piatkowski and Stanley Roberts all said they voted to approve the tentative collective bargaining agreement and retain the current union as their bargaining agent.
“We have too many guys who don’t know what’s going on,” said Polynice, who is represented by pro-decertification agent Keith Glass. “They’re just following Michael [Jordan], Patrick [Ewing] and Alonzo [Mourning]. Michael can afford a work stoppage. Michael doesn’t have to play sports any more.”
Said Pooh Richardson, also represented by one of the leading insurgent agents, Arn Tellem: “I’ve got a feeling, there’s going to be a union. I don’t think they’re going to decertify.”
The second and final opportunity to vote is Sept. 7. None of the votes will be counted until Sept. 12, at which point the results will be announced. A majority of those who voted--not of the approximately 420 players eligible--will determine the winner.
Times staff writers Mark Heisler and Chris Baker contributed to this story.