After weeks of negotiations and uncertainty between the NBA and its players, the league is expected to pay its players in full next Wednesday, April 15, according to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 9, 2020
Because of a little-known section in the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the NBA Players Association known widely now as the “force majeure” clause, the league is entitled to withhold player salaries if games are canceled due to a major disaster such as a pandemic. That put 1/92.6th of players’ salaries in jeopardy in the event of the remainder of the NBA season being canceled. According to this breakdown by Jeff Siegel at Early Bird Rights, the league’s math accounted for the average remaining regular season games among all teams plus the mean playoff games per team (5.6).
All of that is likely still on the table, as this week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league was not inclined to declare anything about the rest of the 2019-20 season until May at the earliest. Still, it has to be seen as a reason for optimism on the part of players (who want their money) and fans (who want to watch basketball sooner rather than later) that the league is forking over full paychecks on April 15. After all, Charania’s report comes just days after he also reported the league was considering withholding 50 percent of salaries to smooth out the pay decrease as much as possible.
The worst-case scenario here would be for the NBA to get ahead of itself, over-pay players, and then have to ask for the money back. Based on reporting from Marc Stein of the New York Times, players with front-loaded payment structures were already prepared for that possibility, so from any angle, another paycheck going out in full from the NBA signals more optimism about pro basketball returning in the United States than there was even earlier this week.
Perhaps the tune from the White House regarding America’s relative success in “flattening the curve,” as well as reported governmental support for MLB’s plan to return to action, have given the NBA confidence that it can do the same, or maybe Silver and the league office are just buying themselves time to formulate an agreement with the NBPA.