NEW YORK — The NBA Players Association on Monday rejected the owners’ latest offer and have launched the process to disband their union, throwing the entire 2011-2012 pro basketball season into jeopardy.
Players had the option to accept the offer, which proposed a shortened 72-game schedule beginning December 15 to end a months-long lockout, or take it to a vote and turn it down altogether.
“This is the best decision for the players,” union president Derek Fisher said Monday.
“A lot of individual players have a lot of things personally at stake in terms of their careers.
“And right now they feel it’s important … that we not only try to get a deal done for today but for the body of NBA players that will come into this league over the next decade and beyond.”
NBA commissioner David Stern had previously warned if the current offer is rejected, the owners would come back with an even harsher one.
“It looks like the 2011-12 season is really in jeopardy,” Stern told ESPN. “It’s just a big charade. To do it now, the union is ratcheting up I guess to see if they can scare the NBA owners or something. That’s not happening.”
But in order for the NBA to have a 72-game season, Stern admitted the two sides would likely have to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement within the next week.
Fisher said he has the support of the players and was flanked at Monday’s news conference by several stars, including Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.
A key sticking point remains the division of some $4 billion in annual revenue.
Players received 57 percent of basketball-related income under their previous contract, but have said they would be willing to drop that to 52.5 percent.
Stern had said if the latest offer was rejected and there was another bargaining meeting, it would be based on a 53-47 split of revenues in the owners’ favour, a flexible salary cap with a hard ceiling and salary rollbacks.
Players’ representatives said they were prepared to dissolve the union and file an antitrust lawsuit against the league over the lockout, which has lasted for more than four months.
“The players feel they’re not prepared to accept any ultimatum,” said the executive director of the players union, Billy Hunter, calling the offer “extremely unfair” on the part of the NBA management.
Stern, said Monday he was saddened and “terribly disappointed,” made it clear the outlook for the season was not good, USA Today reported.
“Frankly, by what I would say is an irresponsible action at this late date, Billy Hunter has decided to put the season in jeopardy and deprive his union members of an enormous payday,” Stern said.
Stern insisted the latest offer is a good one and warned that decertification is not the route to take.
“We’re not going to cancel the season this week,” Stern said on the weekend. “We’re just going to present to them what we told them we would.”
The league has already wiped out all of the games scheduled in November — a month’s worth of action in a campaign that was to have started November 1.
The previous collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of the day June 30.
Despite a series of meetings in June, the two sides never got close to hammering out a new deal before the deadline.
The owners say changes are needed because they lost $300 million last season and hundreds of millions more in each year of the old agreement, which came into effect in 2005.