In a podcast distributed to his union membership, NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter called commissioner David Stern’s claims that the league has suffered losses of $400 million “inflated and inaccurate.”
Hunter is trying to rally the players against a commissioner and ownership that he believes is determined to stage a lockout during the 2011-12 season to deliver unprecedented givebacks and cost certainties with a new collective bargaining agreement.
“We believe that the NBA owners may have actually been profitable over the past several seasons,” Hunter said in the podcast obtained by Yahoo! Sports.
As Y! Sports reported in May, Hunter told the players that union lawyers are investigating the possibility of bringing collusion charges against the NBA for an apparent exaggeration about how a steep revenue decline this year would significantly drop the salary cap for the next two seasons. The union counters that estimates the cap could drop as much as 15 percent – as opposed to the 2 percent now projected unnecessarily cost players on the free market.
“We are mindful of the potentially negative impact that last summer’s NBA’s cap predictions had on the offers made to the 2009 free agent class and our staff attorneys are currently considering whether the union should file a claim of collusion against the NBA,” Hunter said.
Hunter cited several indicators of why the union believes the NBA is fabricating team losses as it pushes for massive givebacks by the players in CBA discussions. One of the main contentions of the union comes with owners who also possess arenas and television networks, and how money is shuffled around to show losses. Hunter offered Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s legal battle with minority investor Ross Perot Jr. as an example.
“The lawsuit claims that some of the Mavericks’ revenues have been funneled to a separate aviation company that is owned by Cuban,” Hunter said. “Although there is no way for us to verify the accuracy of the allegations, it illustrates the point that many owners have diverse portfolios of corporate interests that benefit from being affiliated with NBA teams.”
Stern has insisted that a primary reason new owners are excited about buying NBA teams is because he’s promised to give them a new, favorable CBA in 2011. The union believes he’s gearing up for a lockout, and could be willing to shut the league down for a year.