NBA reaches labor deal with referees

The referees union reached a new five-year labor agreement with the NBA

The NBA has reached an agreement with the National Basketball Referee’s Association on a new collective bargaining agreement, avoiding the use of replacement officials once the league eventually resumes play, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.

The NBA's owners ratified the agreement at their meeting on Thursday in Dallas.

The existing two-year labor agreement between the NBA and referee's union expired Sept. 1, and the league was facing the possibility of using replacement officials for the second time in the past four years. Replacement referees were used in the 2009-10 preseason, but a deal was ratified before opening night of the season.

This agreement clears the way for the NBA to focus solely on its negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association. The NBA locked out the players on July 1, and talks have broken down between the two sides. It appears almost impossible for the NBA’s training camps to open as scheduled on Oct. 3.

The Associated Press first reported the five-year agreement between the NBA and its referees.

[Related: Union's Hunter rallies players]

After a difficult beginning to talks in January between the league and referees, the two sides – led by NBA commissioner David Stern and union executive director Lee Seham – hammered out a deal over the past two months. The NBRA had filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board in February, citing “the league’s refusal to negotiate with the union concerning non-economic issues.”

The referee’s union had hired Seham, an experienced labor attorney, as executive director, and his first meeting with Stern on Jan. 24 turned acrimonious, according to union memos obtained by Yahoo! Sports. The memos described an alleged “obscene expression” by Stern directed at NBRA reps.

According to the memo, Stern became angry when union attorneys raised the idea of including what the union called “standard language found in many collective bargaining agreements” on discrimination.

“One of the league’s negotiators [Stern] reacted to it with hostility and resorted to the use of an obscene expression in describing its effect,” the memo said. “When the NBRA representatives declined his demand to delete the obscene expression from their notes, this negotiator [Stern] abruptly left the room.”

In the end, the league and referees were able to move past that acrimony and agree on a deal.

Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
Surprising leader in NBA ticket sales
Angry Broncos fans work to buy pro-Tebow billboards
College basketball gets its first blue floor