NBA, NBA Players Association strike deal on reduced pay

The pandemic soon will be affecting the take-home pay of NBA players.

Via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com, the NBA and NBA Players Association have agreed to a 25-percent reduction in player pay, as of May 15.

The withheld money will be held in escrow, in the event that the remaining 2019-20 regular-season games are played. If the remaining 2019-20 games aren’t played, teams would keep a percentage of the money.

The salary reductions will continue into the 2020-21 season, even if/when those games are played.

The deal represents a negotiated alternative to the NBA relying on the force majeure clause in the labor deal to justify not paying players at all for games that ultimately are canceled due to the pandemic. Given payments already made to players, that could result in teams trying to recover money already paid. Instead, money will be withheld moving forward, even into next season, to address the NBA’s rights under the CBA to not pay players for games that aren’t played.

This is relevant to the NFL because, as previously explained, the NFL’s labor deal and the standard player contract contain no language that would allow the league to stiff players if games aren’t played. Which gives the NFLPA much more leverage than the NBPA when it comes to figuring out what needs to happen if the games can’t.

Which ultimately is all the more reason for the NFL to do whatever it has to do to play its games in 2020.

But if the playing of NFL games requires a material change to normal working conditions, the NFLPA will have a large and potent hammer in any negotiations that may transpire. If, as it appears, NFL players would be entitled to full pay if no games are played at all, the NFLPA can balk at any alternative arrangements that place an unreasonable burden on the players.

That said, the NFLPA needs to realize that forcing the NFL to pay the players in full for games that aren’t played could have dramatic long-term consequences to the league and the union, forcing multiple owners to take out significant loans and/or to sell all or part of their equity during a time that hardly could be viewed as a seller’s market, introducing the potential for chaos into the sport and, in turn, into the relationship between management and labor.