The NBA has canceled the first two weeks of the regular season after owners and players were unable to reach a new labor deal and end the lockout.
NBA commissioner David Stern told the Associated Press late Monday after two straight days of negotiations that both sides were “very far apart on virtually all issues. … We just have a gulf that separates us.”
The cancellation includes all games scheduled through Nov. 14. The NBA is offering to give ticket holders refunds or credits for later games.
Negotiators for the owners and players met for 14 hours Sunday and another seven hours Monday.
“Despite extensive efforts, we have not been able to reach a new agreement with the players’ union that allows all 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship while fairly compensating our players,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
The sticking point in the negotiations was how the team owners and their players would split the $4 billion in revenue generated annually by the league, according to the Wall Street Journal. The NBA claims that it is losing $300 million a year, with 22 of its 30 teams also in the red.
The owners want the players to drop their cut of the revenue from 57 percent under the previous contract, which expired July 1, to between 47-50 percent in a new pact, but the players don’t want to drop below 53 percent.
The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the season will have minimal impact on the league’s broadcast partners, according sports media insiders.
ESPN issued a statement late Monday: “Like all NBA fans, we’re disappointed the season will not start on time. We remain hopeful this will get resolved quickly.” The network said it plans to replace the canceled NBA games mostly with college football and basketball games.
But if the lockout persists into the new year and threatens a full playoff schedule, the NBA’s broadcast partners, including ABC/ESPN and TNT, could suffer substantial financial losses. Advertisers spent $807 million on NBA broadcasts last season, according to Kantar Media data cited by the Wall Street Journal. The most lucrative advertising occurs during the playoffs.
And, with another work stoppage, the NBA risks alienating a fan base that sent the league’s revenues and TV ratings soaring during the 2010-11 season.
Meanwhile, the loss of the first two weeks of games also will hurt workers with jobs dependent on pro basketball’s six-month-plus season. A few teams have already trimmed their staffs, and more layoffs could be forthcoming.
It is not immediately clear how the cancellation will impact Staples Center, which is home to both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Anschutz Entertainment Group, co-owner of Staples Center and a minority owner of the Lakers, declined to comment, citing NBA restrictions on team owners discussing matters related to the lockout.
Daniel Miller, Andy Lewis and the Associated Press contributed to this report.