What’s on Tap? NBA Players May Have to Refund Money to Owners
Sam Tapper – Sports Writer
The NBA was the first domino of the professional sports landscape to fall in the U.S., as COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus became an increased threat. While the NBA made their decision because two of its players were diagnosed with COVID-19 within a day of each other, the decision was likely inevitable based on the rapid spread of the pandemic.
The NBA suspended its season on March 11. Now, it is a full month later and there is still no word on when or if the NBA will return this season, and things could get messier for the players going forward, and it involves money.
NBA players are all under contracts, based on an 82-game regular season plus a potential spot in the playoffs. There are other contracts, like two-way deals, allowing teams to split a player’s time in the NBA and the G-League, as well as 10-day contracts. Both pay far less than the average NBA deal, even that of the team’s 12th man.
Currently, the NBA is experiencing a tremendous financial loss during this hiatus —about $1 billion — which was to be expected, as ticket sales and TV broadcasts are major driving forces for revenue.
However, according to a report from CNBC, NBA players may have to refund their pay to their owners. According to the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA Players’ Association and the NBA, the league can retain about one percent of players’ paychecks for each canceled game specifically in the circumstances of a tragedy, such as a pandemic. While there is no word on if the season will continue or be called off, the NBA and NBPA discussed a plan to withhold salaries if the remainder of the season is canceled, according to ESPN.
According to an agent who remained anonymous when speaking with CNBC, they believe that the league could stop 50 percent of players’ remaining salaries until the NBA accounting period, usually in July, is completed.
Players on expiring contracts or other contracts on a six-month pay cycle as opposed to the typical 12-month pay cycle would be the hardest hit, and even agents would feel the effects as they would not receive their commissions tied to their clients’ contracts. Essentially, the players who have the least financial security would be the hardest hit.
No decision has been made yet regarding the matter, and the NBA is still actively searching for avenues that would allow them to resume the 2019-20 season in some capacity, whether it be a full remaining schedule, just the postseason or anywhere in between. However, if the NBA season is canceled outright, and that is a strong possibility at this point, players will be writing checks to their owners, but the amount remains to be seen.