The NBA has told teams it’s going ahead with replacement referees, days after the league thought a deal had been reached with locked-out officials.
The league sent a memo Tuesday informing teams it had “no expectation of concluding a timely labor contract.” The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, follows the latest failure in negotiations.
According to the memo, the sides had agreed in principle on a new two-year deal Friday. But the National Basketball Referees Association rejected the NBA’s proposal Sunday.
The memo alludes to the reversal, saying, “this is not the first time that commitments made by the NBRA’s negotiators were not met.” Commissioner David Stern previously ended one of the bargaining sessions when the league felt the referees backed out of previously agreed upon concessions.
News of the memo was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
The NBA held referees training camp with replacements over the weekend and will release its roster of backups before the first preseason game, scheduled for Thursday at Utah.
The union’s five-person executive board originally voted to recommend the approval of the league’s proposal to the membership, according to an official familiar with the talks. However, one of the board members then switched his vote, and the full membership then rejected the deal as well.
The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.
The contract between the league and its officials expired Sept. 1 and they have been unable to reach a new deal. Negotiations broke down at least twice as the sides remained apart on the league’s proposed changes to the referees’ pension and severance packages, as well as a plan to develop younger officials.
In the memo, the NBA told teams that the deal in principle would have resulted in savings in the referees program by approximately 3.5 percent over the next two years. Previous deals with the officials have been for five years, but the league agreed to make it two in this contract so the referees could renegotiate sooner, when it hoped the league’s economic situation had changed.
The league last used replacement officials early in the 1995-96 season. Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown, who was coaching Indiana at the time, hopes a deal gets done quickly.
“It’s a very difficult thing for me, personally. I’ve been with a lot of those guys my whole career,” Brown said. “I’ve watched them get better and I’m hopeful that they thought I’ve gotten better. Now if we’re going to have young guys come in, I don’t know if they’re ready, just like our young kids.”
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