The NBA is pushing through with its training camp project for replacement officials as negotiations with the referees association falls through. It seems that the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA) rejected the league final offer and has opted for replacement referees.
“The proposals we have made to the NBRA are extraordinarily fair and reasonable, given the current economic circumstances. Since late 2008, the league and our teams have made far deeper cuts in non-referee headcount and expenses that we are asking for here.”
“It is extremely disappointing that the NBRA has ignored the economic realities, rejected our offer, and left us with no choice but to begin using replacement referees,” said the league’s executive president and general counsel Richard Buchanan as posted in the NBA site. For their part, the NBRA expressed that they were not startled by the decision.
“I already predicted that a lock out was forthcoming and yet it does not mean that both sides cannot continue to talk and work through some of these issues” said by the associations lead negotiator Lamell McMorris. Both sides have been trying to seal another two year agreement ever since the contract’s expiry on September 1. The two parties were mostly agreeing on the salary rates; however, the league’s attempt to change retirement benefits caused the association to pull back. NBA was also targeting to cut back costs by downgrading per diems and travel budget expenses.
According to the NBA, the earlier deal gave senior referees a salary of at least $550,000 yearly and $150,000 for entry level officials. Previous retirement benefits amount to $575,000 along with more than $2 million in pension benefits. The league got in touch with replacements after the last meeting between the two parties. The event was cut short by commissioner David Stern, saying that some proposals in which they have already come into an agreement was reneged on by the officials.
However, McMorris disagrees with the statement, saying that the league has already contacted replacement officials even before the last meeting. He was also unhappy with the NBA’s release of salary information. McMorris called the move a “distortion of the referees current compensation”, contesting that the league awarded bonuses to some of the men who supervise the referee operations sector, labeling the league’s move as a “low blow”.
“I just thought that was an unfortunate low blow that they’re attempting to do in order to create media spin and I guess to try to get fans to not sympathize with our plight,” he commented.
The NBA is now in the process of arranging the training camp with no mention of the exact number of referees who will be participating. The first preseason game is on October 1 with the regular season scheduled for October 27.