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Players Salaries

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Michael G.

Bus law

There was a time when men played for the love of the game; when competition alone satisfied the male ego. This age of basketball featured greats such as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Oscar Robinson. These gladiators, and those like them, battled repeatedly winning league championships, MVP's, scoring titles, and other accolades. Then, the product of James Naismith moved into an era where the love continued, but money was added. Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkely, Reggie Miller and Tim Hardaway have become league "poster-boys" for commercials and shoe contracts. Each of them has continued the competitive fire's burning while adding a flare of green. Today, the league seems to be completely entrenched in money. Multi-million dollar contracts, million dollar endorsements, and billion dollar television deals are the focus of the league now. Some criticize on the players for being so concerned about money while others argue the players should be compensated for their God given talents. These "some" are mostly owners' of NBA franchises and the "others" are the players. There are some that petition that the players bring in the money, so they should receive it while others say that they are already compensated enough for a game. In this instance, the "some" are pro player fans and the "others" are allies of the owners. With the large amounts of money that pass through the hands of the owners of NBA franchises and the precedent that has been set by other professional athletic leagues, NBA players should receive substantial compensation for their services.

Employee-Employer relations have been rigid since the beginning of time. For this reason, laborers started labor unions to rectify the problem. Labor unions, are associations of workers for improving economic status through collective bargaining, formed out of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century (Labor). Collective bargaining is defined as the negotiation between the representatives of organized workers and their employer(s) to determine wages, hours, rules, and working conditions. The conditions under which these former farmers had to work were unbearable. The farmer got tired of the treatment and banded to together. Labor unions sprouted in the US around the 1830's; however, the first major group was the Knights of Labor that organized in 1869 (Labor).

Within the last six years, there has been much discussion about the National Basketball Association and the labor agreement lockout that happened a few years ago. The details are tedious, but the overall discrepancy looms over how much the players are worth and how much the owners should pay them. In the summer of 1995, the owners opened the collective bargaining agreement. Their fear is that the players are receiving too much of the BRI, or basketball related income. In 1988 the collective bargaining agreement allotted the players forty-eight percent of BRI, they earned fifty-two percent. The owners, not happy with these figures, locked the players out until a better contract was agreed upon. The players, eager to play and start the season, accepted a six-year deal that stated:

The average salary will increase from $1.7 million to $3 million over six years.

The minimum salary will increase from $150,000 to $225,000 next season and will increase by ten percent each season thereafter.

The creation of a $1 million exception for those teams exceeding the salary cap.

The retention of the Larry Bird exception, which states that players completing two seasons with a team can re-sign with that team for any amount regardless of the salary cap.

The elimination of the luxury tax.

The players shall be allocated forty-eight percent of BRI and the owners have the option of opening the agreement if it reaches over fifty-one point eight percent.

Sixty-three percent of the ninety percent of the player's union who were present at the meeting voted for this agreement.

Two members of the player's union, union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler and Michael Jordan, foresaw the problems of this agreement. In an interview after the signing, Kessler says, "I still believe it was a terrible vote for the players and they are going to regret it for a long time,". Jordan had similar, but different thoughts. "I am with the majority as long as two years down the road they can live with the repercussions of what this deal is going to give them".

Michael Jordan and Jeffrey Kessler jinxed the agreement. On Tuesday June 30, 1998 at midnight, the NBA Board of Directors locked the players out. The owners, again frustrated over the percentage of BRI that the players received shut down all personnel transactions, workout facilities, and summer camps. The immediate cause of the lockout stems from the $995 million in total salaries, or fifty-seven percent of BRI that the players received instead of their contractual forty-eight percent. Still, other issues caused the lockout. The league wants:

A firm salary cap that cannot be broken.

The Larry Bird clause to be phased out in two years.

The annual increase for veterans limited to five percent.

A guaranteed five-year rookie contract with the right of first refusal for one year.

A drug policy that includes heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana.

The owners wants are not unwarranted. They feel as though a stern salary cap will curve the large contracts that have recently taken precedence in the league. This will also help control the division of BRI. The rookie contract request stems from the amount of rookies who enter the league and have excellent initial seasons. The rookies would then leave their drafting teams to the highest bidder where they eventually help their new team compete for a NBA Championship. The owners feel that the mandatory five-year rookie contracts will allow the drafting team to get the better years out of the rookie before he leaves for another team. Last, the owners feel that players are passing the drug tests, but still enjoy alcohol and marijuana. They feel that these substances are just as dangerous as heroin and cocaine and should not be tolerated.

On the other hand, the players had good reasons for their requests, which included:

The continuation of the Larry Bird clause.



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