The NBA players union secured several lines of credit from major banks and received promises of financial assistance from the baseball, football and hockey unions on the first full day of the league's lockout.
The union also filed a grievance with arbitrator John Feerick, who ruled in the Latrell Sprewell case, on behalf of the 200-plus players with guaranteed contracts - including 11 who were supposed to be paid this month.On a busy day of developments in the labor stalemate, it was also learned that CBS and Fox are considering televising exhibition games involving NBA free agents if the lockout lasts into the fall.
The heads of the two network sports divisions also have talked about creating a new league if the 1998-99 NBA season ends up being canceled.
"If you look at it, it's a lot easier to start a rival basketball league than a football league," agent Mark Fleisher said. "The rosters are only 11 or 12 deep, rather than 45 or 50 in football, almost a third of the NBA's players just became free agents and arenas are easier to secure than stadiums.
"Also, you have Michael Jordan unsure of what he'll do. What if you offered him $100 million to join a start-up league. You'd be immediately viable right there," Fleisher said.
With both sides expecting a protracted deadlock, financial matters were foremost on the minds of the union.
In addition to securing lines of credit from several banks for any players who run low on money during a long lockout, the union received loan promises from NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw, baseball union leader Donald Fehr and NHL Players Association director Bob Goodenow.
The latest grievance before Feerick was filed Tuesday, when the old collective bargaining agreement was still in effect, after the league announced Monday that players would not be paid during the lockout.
Kenny Anderson of the Boston Celtics on Wednesday became the first player to miss a paycheck. His contract calls for him to receive his entire 1998-99 salary of $5.8 million on July 1.
Rookie of the year Tim Duncan and union officers Dikembe Mutombo and Jim McIlvaine also are due to receive portions of their salary during the month of July.
Even though Anderson didn't go unpaid until July 1, the union claims the NBA and the Celtics committed an "anticipatory breach of contract" by announcing their intentions on June 29.
Feerick's jurisdiction ended at midnight, June 30, but cases filed before then remain open.
The union's filing beat the deadline by a few hours, but the league will argue that the standard player contract calls for a player to inform a team by letter that he has not been paid and then wait a minimum of five days before he can file an arbitration case.