NBA union boss says owners' loss claims are "baloney"

June 15, 2010
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Who can you trust?

It’s an age-old question.

And one lots of people pondering the Indiana Pacers’ future are asking themselves these days.

Here’s another age-old line.

Numbers don’t lie.

Problem is, I’m not sure the city’s Capital Improvement Board has seen enough of them from Pacers brass. They’ve assured me they have. The public certainly hasn’t seen enough of them from the Pacers’ ledger sheet to be convinced the team needs $15 million annually to survive locally in Conseco Fieldhouse.

Then there’s this. NBA Players Association boss Billy Hunter is calling NBA owners a bunch of liars—or at the very least deceivers.

Ouch! That kind of press can’t be good for business—locally for the Pacers or nationally for the league.

Hunter told Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal this month that owners’ claim that they have collectively lost $400 million this year is “baloney.”

The perception among a growing legion of central Indiana taxpayers is that maybe some numbers do lie—depending on how you stack ‘em and count ‘em. And Hunter’s recent proclamation certainly isn’t going to help with that perception.

Hunter has been given reams of data from the NBA as the union and league negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

Hunter knows well the NBA owners have a time-honored tradition of crying poor. He says he has a basis for his “baloney” claim, but won’t tip his hand until the league’s owners cough up more data.

The collective bargaining agreement expires in June 2011, after which the league can lock out the players if no agreement is reached.

Before negotiations proceed any further, Hunter is asking for the sales prospectuses NBA teams have shown to buyers and potential buyers of teams in recent years. That might be a helpful piece of information for the CIB to obtain.

Majority ownership in five NBA teams—the Cleveland Cavaliers, Seattle SuperSonics, N.J. Nets, Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards—has changed hands since 2005.

“There may be some inconsistencies between, you know, what they are representing in terms of the finances they have given us, versus what they are saying to these folks,” Hunter told Sports Business Journal.

The NBA’s poverty claims have gotten louder in recent years. With the weak economy and expansion of entertainment options, some of it is justifiable. And most I have talked to with knowledge of NBA finances, say Indianapolis is certainly among the NBA's poorest markets.

Still, Hunter said NBA ownership’s tactics are getting old and tired. He pointed out that NBA Commissioner David Stern claimed two years ago that team revenue was so bad, it was going to drive down the salary cap from $57.7 million to $50.4 million. That claim, Hunter added, had a chilling effect on free agent negotiations.

A pre-determined formula using team revenue later set the 2009-10 NBA salary cap at $56.1 million.

So NBA business isn’t as good as it used to be. But how bad is it?

Who can you trust?

And more importantly, whose numbers can you trust?

  • NBA
    Hunter's not stupid, however he needs to realize this cow is about half dried up. If he pushes this to the brink and creates need for a lockout, then he's a fool.

    It is a fact that payroll needs to be trimmed in the NBA by 20 - 25%. If Hunter can't help figure out a way to make his membership understand that, then he's played out and there will be teams folding and a lot of people out of work. And then, if the league survives, it will be with far fewer teams and far less fans that care. This time it's for keeps, Billy Boy!

    As for now, he's just running his mouth as you would expect him to do.

    We'll see......
  • Umm...
    ....who cares?
  • Hey Chris
    If you're a taxpayer in this city, you should care plenty.
  • Hunters comments are very much like the attorney in a divorce saying the other party is not fully disclosing their income. May be truth to it, but who knows for sure.

    for those bellyaching about the quality of the team, we were in the Championship series just a decade ago. Every team has down periods, have faith.
  • The problem with the NBA...
    The NBA's biggest problem is guaranteed contracts and players that are on the bench making far too much money. The bottom line is that fans pay to see the stars whether it's the NFL or the NBA. Guys like Peyton and Kobe deserve every cent they get because they sell tix. The guys that are role players or benchwarmers don't make nearly as much in the NFL as they do in the NBA and they don't have a guaranteed contract. That is the biggest problem with the NBA's financial structure.
  • Sonics played 41 years in Seattle
    if you guys havent seen the film sonicsgate, go see it! it goes in deep about NBA economics and how 41 years of loyalty dosent mean anything to the nba. you can check it out at it won best sports movie at the webby awards in new york city.
  • gambling

    Compulsive Gambling Addiction Help | Recovery from Compulsive Gambling by Arnie Wexler


    Special Features Send this link to a friend View Participant's Press Room Page
    David Stern Told S.I. Legalized Gambling on the NBA May Be a Huge Opportunity Boynton Beach, FL Saturday, April 17, 2010
    In May 1996, Horace Balmer, the NBA's vice president for security, had two speakers flown to Norfolk, Va., whose messages were even very disturbing. Michael Franzese, a former mob boss who fixed professional and college games for organized crime, and Arnie Wexler, who for 23 years was a compulsive gambler. Franzere said, ``I talked to the NBA rookies earlier this season . . . and it's amazing how many confided to me that they have gambling habits. I'm not going to mention their names, but if I did, you would know them" ``I personally got involved in compromising games with players, and it all came through their gambling habits.' ( THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT -May 11, 1996 )

    Ten years ago, as a compulsive-gamblers counselor, I was asked to fly to New York to the National Basketball Association office in Manhattan and met with league officials, players and union officials, concerned about players' gambling. I was told, "We have a problem, and we're trying to find out how bad the problem is" Officials asked me to keep my calendar open for the spring of the following year and said to me that they wanted me to address every team and player in the league. They then flew my wife in, and we had a second meeting they asked us develop questions that were going to be given to the players to answer. "We need to know how big the gambling problem is in the N.B.A,"

    When I hadn't heard from the N.B.A, I called and asked, "When do we start?" The talked were cancelled, and the response I got was this: "They said that the higher-ups didn't want the media to find out"

    Some years ago, I was on a TV show with Howard Cossell (ABC Sports Beat). The topic was: Does the media encourage the public to gamble? David Stern, NBA commissioner said: "We don't want the week's grocery money to be bet on the outcome of a particular sporting event"

    Yet on Dec. 11, 2009, commissioner David Stern told (the website for Sports Illustrated) that legalized gambling on the NBA "May be a huge opportunity"

    I wonder how many addicted gamblers placed the first bet they ever made on an NBA game.

    The National Gambling Study Commission said that there are "5 million compulsive gamblers and 15 million at risk in the U.S" Forty-eight percent of the people who gamble bet on sports.

    Get the real scoop: Talk to me, Arnie Wexler, one of the nation's leading experts on the subject of compulsive gambling and a recovering compulsive gambler. I placed my last bet on April 10, 1968, and has been involved in helping compulsive gamblers for the last 40 years. Through the years, I have spoken to more compulsive gamblers than anyone else in America and has been fighting the injustice of how sports, society and the judicial system deal with compulsive gamblers.

    Athletes may be more vulnerable than the general population when you look at the soft signs of compulsive gambling: high levels of energy; unreasonable expectations of winning; very competitive personalities; distorted optimism; and bright with high IQs.

    It is time for college and professional sports to outline and execute a real program to help players who might have a gambling problem or gambling addiction problem. Yet college and professional sports still do not want to deal with this. They do not want the media and public to think there is a problem.

    And over the years, I have spoken to many college and professional athletes who had a gambling problem. One NCAA study a few years ago reported: "There is a disturbing trend of gambling among athletes in college" You can't think that these people will get into the pros and then just stop gambling.

    Compulsive gambling is an addiction just like alcoholism and chemical dependency, and all three diseases are recognized by the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic and statistical manual. Nevertheless, we treat compulsive gambling differently than the other addictions. Society and professional sports treat people with chemical dependency and alcoholism as sick persons, send them to treatment and get them back to work. Sports looks at compulsive gamblers as bad people and gets barred them from playing in professional sports.

    There are people in various sport's halls of fame who are convicted drug addicts and alcoholics, yet compulsive gamblers are unable to get into these halls of fame. In fact, as far as professional sports goes, an alcoholic and chemical dependent person can get multiple chances, whereas a gambler cannot. I have been fighting the injustice of how sports, society and the judicial system deal with compulsive gamblers for many years.

    If colleges and professional leagues wanted to help the players, they would run real programs that seriously address the issue of gambling and compulsive gambling. Education and early detection can make a difference between life and death for some people who have or will end up with a gambling addiction.

    One sports insider said to me: "Teams need to have a real program for players, coaches and referees, and they need to let somebody else run it. When you do it in-house, it's like the fox running the chicken coop. You must be kidding yourself if you think any player, coach or referee is going to call the league and say, 'I've got a gambling problem, and I need help.' "

    The Wexlers run a national help line for gamblers who want help 888 LAST BET

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    Arnie Wexler
    Arnie & Sheila Wexler Associates
    Boynton Beach, FL

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