Regardless, damage already has been done, in many ways.
Financially, both sides have lost hundreds of millions because of the games missed and the countless more that will be wiped out before play resumes. Team employees are losing money, and in some cases, jobs. And both the owners and players eventually must regain the loyalty of an angered fan base that wonders how the league reached this low point after such a strong 2010-11 season.
“It’s horrible,” said Ty Agee, president of the Beale Street Merchants Association in Memphis, Tenn. “This is bad. Personally, I don’t believe they will be able to fix it. This is really, really bad.”
And it was seemingly destined. Hunter said he believed years ago owners were going to lock out the players until they could force through the changes they sought. Given that, he has been criticized for not disbanding the union sooner in hopes of creating some leverage that the union never had.
The proposal rejected by the players called for a 72-game season beginning Dec. 15.
On Sunday, the league made a very public push on the positives of the deal _ hosting a 90-minute twitter chat to answer questions from players and fans, posting a YouTube video to explain the key points and sending a memo from Stern to players urging them to “study our proposal carefully, and to accept it as a fair compromise of the issues between us.”
In the memo, posted on the league’s website, Stern highlighted points of the deal and asked players to focus on the compromises the league made during negotiations, such as dropping its demands for a hard salary cap, non-guaranteed contracts and salary rollbacks.
Union officials repeatedly have said the system issues are perhaps more important to them than the split of basketball-related income, but owners say they need fundamental changes in both to allow for a chance to profit and to ensure more competitive balance throughout the league.
The previous CBA expired at the end of the day June 30. Despite a series of meetings in June, there was never much hope of a deal before that deadline, with owners wanting significant changes after saying they lost $300 million last season and hundreds of millions more in each year of the old agreement, which was ratified in 2005.
Owners wanted to keep more of the league’s nearly $4 billion in basketball revenues. And they sought a system where even the smallest-market clubs could compete, believing the current system would always favor the teams who could spend the most.
The NBA’s last work stoppage reduced the 1998-99 season to 50 games. Monday marked the 137th day of the lockout; the NFL lockout lasted 136 days.
In its labor battle, NFL players tried to get the courts to overturn the lockout and let players return to work. Although a Minnesota judge initially ruled in favor of the players, that ruling was put on hold by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Given the rulings that came down in the NFL case, which are not binding in the 2nd circuit but would be influential, right now the owners are not in a bad spot,” said antitrust attorney David Scupp of Constantine Cannon in New York City. “It could very well be that the players have an uphill battle toward getting that lockout enjoined. If they can do that, then it might swing things in their favor.”
But time is not on anyone’s side.
“If you look at what happened with the NFL case, that whole legal battle surrounding the temporary injunction was resolved relatively quickly, and it still took a few months,” Scupp said. “There’s not a few months to spare this time around.”