While the NBA world is still reeling from the league’s decision to suspend all play for a minimum of 30 days following the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States, there are still a lot of questions that remain during this hiatus. There’s still no guarantee that the league resumes player after the initial 30-day postponement, and the option of canceling the remainder of the season is still on the table. It hasn’t gotten to that point yet, but if it does then there will be some serious discussions about if the league plans on paying the players.
The National Basketball Players Association has reportedly sent an email to players in the league detailing a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that would allow the teams in the league to not pay the players a percentage of their salaries if the remainder of the season is canceled due to the coronavirus, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The official name of the clause, the Force Majeure Event, is something that the league could trigger as a last resort, and can be used in the event of natural disasters, wars, or a pandemic. Earlier this week the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a global pandemic.
In Article XXXIX, Section 5 in the NBA’s CBA, the Force Majeure Event reads:
“In addition to any other rights a Team or the NBA may have by contract or by law, if a Force Majeure Event occurs and, as a result, one or more Teams are unable to play one or more games (whether Exhibition, Regular Season, or Playoff games), then, for each missed Exhibition, Regular Season, or Playoff game during such period (the “Force Majeure Period”) that was not rescheduled and replayed, the Compensation payable to each player who was on the roster of a Team that was unable to play one or more games during the Force Majeure Period shall be reduced by 1/92.6th of the player’s Compensation for the Season(s) covering the Force Majeure Period.”
The memo sent to the players by the NBPA was to inform them that a provision like this does exist, because the league has not brought it up in discussions with the players union, per Wojnarowski. Additionally, the players association sent a memo on Saturday explaining that they fully expect players to be paid on their typically scheduled paydays, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The union reportedly does not plan to discuss potential adjustments until a decision is made about a potentially altered league-schedule.
What this means, is that for every canceled game, players could be losing roughly one percent of their compensation for the season. For instance, LeBron James would lose about $404,000 per game this season of his salary, as reported by Bloomberg Business. That’s just a fraction of what LeBron and other high-paid players in the league are compensated for their play, but for those on less lucrative deals, forfeiting one percent of their contract could be a huge blow.
Canceling the rest of the season is an option if the outbreak of this virus gets worse over time, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on Thursday night that regardless of the length of the postponement the season will resume.
The goal is still to play out the rest of the season, but if it does come to this then players could be receiving less than what their contracts stipulate.