Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NBA Labor Deal: Did It Fix the League's Biggest Problem?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NBA Labor Deal: Did It Fix the League's Biggest Problem?

Article excerpt

The tentative labor deal between NBA players and owners sought to address the financial disparities between small-market and big- market teams. Some of those issues remain unresolved.

Sports-labor experts are split over whether the new National Basketball Association labor deal tentatively agreed upon between owners and players' representatives will actually fix the main problem it set out to address.

Small-market teams such as Charlotte, Memphis, and Oklahoma City were increasingly concerned that they would not be able to compete under the old labor rules, which did not do enough to promote parity in the league, owners said. The flight of small-market stars such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to Miami and New York last year was evidence that top players were leaving less glamorous locales at a competitive disadvantage, the owners added.

To some observers, the new labor pact - which still needs to be approved by the players - is a clear attempt to slow this momentum.

"This deal amounts to a major bet on the prospect that evening out the ability of more teams to attract top players will be much better for the entire league than what has existed up till now," says Marshall Babson, labor partner at Seyfarth Shaw, and a former member of the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency charged with remedying unfair labor practices.

But others say it does not go far enough.

"Smaller market teams are struggling because of other issues that this agreement doesn't address," says Bob Boland, academic chairman at the New York University Tisch Center for Sports Management. Among these issues is the big-market owners' unwillingness to share their huge local TV revenues with small-market owners.

And besides, says Mr. Boland, "This still makes it too easy for players to want to change teams."

The deal's greatest selling point - to owners, players, and fans - is that it brings back professional basketball. Players saw their share of the league's basketball-related income drop from 57 percent to between 49 and 51 percent. (It could vary throughout the course of the 10-year deal.) Owners had to concede some financial terms that would have provided a hedge for the small-market teams. …

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