Adam Silver: NBA’s salary cap isn’t ‘un-American’

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defends the league's salary cap and it's business model against critiques from new Players Association executive director Michele Roberts.Kathy Willens/AP
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defends the league’s salary cap and it’s business model against critiques from new Players Association executive director Michele Roberts.

(AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday he “couldn’t disagree more” with comments made by Players Association executive director Michele Roberts about the league’s salary system.

Roberts told ESPN.com in an interview that the salary cap was “incredibly un-American” and that “my DNA is offended by it.”

Roberts also weighed in on the 50-50 split of revenues between owners and players, saying: “Why don’t we have the owners play half the games? There would be no money if not for the players.”

“We couldn’t disagree more with these statements,” Silver said in a release from the league. “The NBA’s success is based on the collective efforts and investments of all of the team owners, the thousands of employees at our teams and arenas, and our extraordinarily talented players. No single group could accomplish this on its own.

“Nor is there anything unusual or ‘un-American’ in a unionized industry to have a collective system for paying employees — in fact, that’s the norm.”

The cap, which limits the total amount teams can spend on player salaries, was implemented in 1984. It increased to an all-time high of $63.1 million and is expected to take a huge jump when the league’s new TV deals, worth more than $2.6 billion, begin in the 2016-17 season.

Roberts was elected by the players in July, becoming the first woman to lead a North American sports union. Players and owners agreed to a 10-year collective bargaining agreement in 2011, and either side can opt out in 2017.

Roberts isn’t waiting until then to raise some of the players’ objections, questioning issues such as maximum player salaries and an age limit for the draft in the interview. She contends that “there is no reason in the world why the union should embrace salary caps or any effort to place a barrier on the amount of money that marquee players can make.”

The current CBA was widely viewed as a loss for the players, who had their guarantee of basketball revenues slashed from 57 percent to 50. Players did fight off owners’ desire to switch to a hard cap system like the NFL’s, which prevents teams from exceeding it. NBA teams can spend above the cap through the use of certain exceptions.

Even with the cap, the average salary for an NBA player is more than $5 million.

“The salary cap system, which splits revenues between team owners and players and has been agreed upon by the NBA and the Players Association since 1982, has served as a foundation for the growth of the league and has enabled NBA players to become the highest-paid professional athletes in the world,” Silver said. “We will address all of these topics and others with the Players Association at the appropriate time.”

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