NBA and its players discussing withholding pay if games are canceled

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are discussing the possibility of withholding pay in the event of canceled regular season games.

While the NBA remains optimistic that regular-season basketball will return sometime over the summer, the league has begun to seriously consider alternative scenarios amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) are discussing the possibility of withholding up to 25 percent of the players’ remaining salaries in a league escrow in the event that regular season games are canceled.

In that unfortunate scenario where the league is forced to shorten or even cancel the remaining regular-season games on the 2019-20 schedule, the financial hit will be felt by players and owners alike.

The Force Majeure provision in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement states that players lose about one percent of salary per canceled game. This provision covering catastrophic situations like pandemics and epidemics immediately goes into effect once there’s a cancellation of games.

As Woj reports, commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and a collection of lawyers have been meeting to financially prepare for the possible cancellation of games and how it would affect the percentages of salary lost for the players.

If the NBA and NBPA cannot reach an agreement on withholding a percentage of player salaries for their upcoming paydays on April 15, they would continue being paid in full, but would be forced to pay some of the salary back later by the CBA. The amount of backpay would be determined by a calculation based on each player’s salary and the number of games canceled for his team.

The NBA has already committed to paying its players in full for their April 1 paychecks.

Ten percent of players’ salaries are already held in escrow. Without the Force Majeure provision, the amount of projected loss would be greater than that projected $380 million in escrow being returned to all 30 NBA teams, in which case, the league would have to make up the difference. Withholding salaries in the event of canceled games is one way to get there and return the 10 percent currently being withheld to the players.

While Wojnarowski reports the NBA does not plan on announcing the cancellation of its season in the immediate future, it’s obviously concerning this worst-case scenario is even being discussed. The NBA did the right thing in suspending its season and leading the charge for the sports world on that front, and rushing back to basketball before this pandemic has been properly dealt with in order to prevent more financial losses would be downright irresponsible, but more and more it’s starting to feel like fans should be bracing for the doomsday scenario where the 2019-20 campaign is over before getting a proper ending.

Next: How the hiatus will affect all 30 NBA teams

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