The NBA is looking to further crack down on tampering, proposing a new top fine of $10 million for teams conducting the practice, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN.
Other maximum-fine levels could be raised significantly as well, provided the league’s board of governors approves the measures Sept. 20.
The league sent a memo to teams Friday detailing the proposed fines. The memo addresses what the league called a “widespread perception that many of the league’s rules are being broken on a frequent basis” when it comes to tampering, salary-cap matters and the timing of free-agency discussions.
So the league wants to hit rule breakers where it hurts most — the checkbook. The league wants fines raised in part to reflect the 600% increase in league revenue and the 1,100% increase in franchise value since the fine ceilings were last touched in 1996.
Other proposals that the board of governors will consider:
a requirement that a team report, within 24 hours, any instance of an agent or player representative asking for a benefit that is not allowed under the salary cap or collective bargaining agreement (“unauthorized benefits”);
a requirement that teams preserve communications with players and their agents for one year;
new channels for teams and team employees to anonymously report rules violations or tampering;
prohibiting players from inducing players under contract to request trades.
In addition, teams will have to require its governor, top basketball operations executive and negotiators to certify annually that they did not talk to free agents or their representatives before the league rules allow. And with every player contract signed, each team’s governor will have to certify that no unauthorized benefits were offered and no rules were broken.
“It’s pointless, at the end of the day, to have rules that we can’t enforce,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in July after the board of governors met and talked about ways to adjust that process in an effort to ensure fairness across the league.
Fines for tampering with players or team personnel could go as high as $10 million, double the current limit. If a team enters into an unauthorized deal with a player, it can be fined up to $6 million — and the player can get hit with a $250,000 fine as well.
Statements or conduct detrimental to the NBA could come with a $5 million fine now, up from the previous ceiling of $1 million. And a rule violation with no specific penalty could merit a $10 million fine, up from $2.5 million — the amount that Silver fined former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling while banning him for life from the NBA in 2014 after he was found to have made racist remarks.
The league also has other penalties within its reach, such as forfeiture or transfer of draft picks, suspensions, voiding of contracts and prohibiting teams from hiring the person they tampered with.
Silver said in July that changes have to be made to the free-agent process after several deals were clearly struck before the negotiating period started. In theory, teams couldn’t talk to free agents before 6 p.m. ET on June 30, which should mean that actually striking deals before then would be impossible.
The NBA has been largely powerless to stop the practice, which has gone on for years and seemed to be particularly out of control this summer. In the first 90 minutes of free agency this summer, at least $1.4 billion in contracts were committed to across the league.
Information from ESPN’s Zach Lowe and The Associated Press was used in this report.