Report: NBA could withhold players’ pay if regular-season games are cancelled

Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol (33) and guard Norman Powell (24) celebrate a three-point basket by Powell in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

The NBA and its players association are discussing scenarios of withholding up to 25 per cent of players’ pay if regular season games are cancelled, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Wojnarowski reported that the NBA remains “hopeful” that the league will resume with some part of the regular season and playoffs, but any loss of games will result in a financial burden shouldered by both the players and owners.

The NBA shut down on March 11 after Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The virus has since halted nearly all sporting events across the globe.

The COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as a Force Majeure, which triggers a clause in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement that states players will lose approximately one per cent of salary per cancelled game.

Even if the NBA and NBPA don’t reach an agreement on withholding a certain percentage of players’ salaries by the April 15 paycheques, players would still be required to pay back a portion of salary later, assuming games are cancelled.

There is no plan to announce the cancellation of games in the immediate future, Wojnarowski said.

Withheld player salaries would be held in escrow, which is already the case for 10 per cent of each player’s salary across the league.

Not all players are paid on the same schedule, though. As Wojnarowski notes, Toronto Raptors forward Marc Gasol is in a challenging situation.

Gasol, a pending free agent, has two installments of $2.15 million left after he receives his April 1 cheque. Because he’s entering free agency and is on a shorter pay schedule than some players, the NBA would have to withhold a greater percentage of his salary.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was among approximately 100 of the league’s top-earning office executives who took 20 per cent cuts in base pay last week.

Wojnarowski reported that those reductions are expected to continue through the course of the COVID-19 crisis.

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