PENSION FAIRNESS FOR NBA PIONEERS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONS
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC JULY 15, 1998
Serial No. 105-129
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education
and the Workforce
Table of Contents *
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE HARRIS FAWELL, CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONS, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES *
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM LIPINSKY, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES *
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM TOSHEFF, PRESIDENT, PRE- 1965 PLAYERS ASSOCIATION, SAN DIEGO, CAlifornia *
STATEMENT OF JOHN EZERSKY, A FORMER PLAYER, WALNUT CREEK, CAlifornia *
STATEMENT OF WALTER BUDKO, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER, LUTHERVILLE, MARYLAND *
STATEMENT OF NEIL ISAACS, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND *
APPENDIX A WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE HARRIS FAWELL, CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES *
Appendix b - written statement of the honorable donald payne, ranking member, subcommittee on education and the workforce, u.s. house of representatives *
appendix c - Statement of the National Basketball Players association *
appendix d - Statement of the National Basketball Association *
APPENDIX E WRITTEN STATEMENT OF WILLIAM TOSHEFF, PRESIDENT, PRE-1965 PLAYERS ASSOCIATION, SAN DIEGO, California *
APPENDIX F WRITTEN STATEMENT OF JOHN EZERSKY, A FORMER PLAYER, WALNUT CREEK, California *
APPENDIX G WRITTEN STATEMENT OF WALTER BUDKO, A FORMER PLAYER, LUTHERVILLE, Maryland *
APPENDIX H WRITTEN STATEMENT OF PROFESSOR NEIL ISSACS, UNIVERSITRY OF MARYLAND, SILVER SPRINGS, Maryland *
Table of Indexes *
PENSION FAIRNESS FOR NBA PIONEERS
Wednesday, July 15, 1998
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 1:45 p.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Harris W. Fawell [Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Fawell and Ballenger.
Also present: Representative Lipinski.
Staff Present: Mark Rodgers, Workplace Policy Coordinator; David Frank, Professional Staff Member; Rob Green, Professional Staff Member; Marjorie Wasson, Staff Assistant; Leslie Field, Media Assistant; Pat Crawford, Minority Legislative Associate, Education, and Shannon McNulty, minority clerk.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE HARRIS FAWELL, CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONS, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Chairman Fawell. [presiding] Good afternoon. The Employer-Employees Relations Subcommittee will come to order.
Today, we undertake an examination of a matter of limited scope, but one nevertheless of great significance to those who are affected.
At a time that the National Basketball Association has just crowned its champion, the Chicago Bulls, I might add, of course, that's my home State of Illinois and the Chicago area has reaped unprecedented revenues for itself and its players, 60-80 pioneer players have been denied pensions. Many of these pioneers are, as a result, still working in their seventies.
Our hearing today is to discuss H.Con. Resolution 83 introduced by my good friend Bill Lipinski, also from Illinois, with 55 co-sponsors. Mr. Lipinski is to my right.
The resolution expresses the sense of Congress that the National Basketball Association and the Players Association should extend pension benefits to certain surviving post-World War II, pre-1965 professional basketball players. It would assist approximately 60-80 retired professional basketball players from the Basketball Association of America, the National Basketball League, and the National Basketball Association who have apparently arbitrarily been excluded from the NBA players pension plan.
We seek to determine whether the NBA has acted fairly in denying these benefits. And also, I note here - what about the Players Association? How deeply do they feel about it? Apparently, we do not have a representative from the National Basketball Association, nor from the Players Association here today. And that is a bit unfortunate. It seems to be some consort of thinking between the employer and the labor union here that often times we don't see, or at least some disinterest.
The National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association, through collective bargaining, established the players pension plan in 1965 to cover players who participated in the league for at least three years in 1965 and beyond. In 1988, those parties agreed to extend benefits to the pre-1965 pioneers, but only those who had played in a minimum of five NBA seasons. This double standard for retired three-and four-year players has forced many of these pioneers to continue to work well into their seventies. The average player in the 1950's made less than $5,000 per year, while current players average over $2.2 million. Not many players could afford to play five years for only a few thousand dollars a year.
The present-day NBA owner owes quite a lot, it would appear to me, to the unselfish dedication of these pioneer players, who received sporadic paychecks and laundered their own uniforms. However, the NBA has steadfastly maintained that this rule represents a fair requirement in determining the group of individuals who made a truly significant contribution to the early years of the league. It seems to me that the minimal annual cost that would be incurred by the NBA players pension plan to cover these individuals, just a few hundred thousand dollars for a plan with assets of over $100 million, would be a reasonable price to secure the retirements of these true pioneers. Unfortunately, we'll not be hearing from the NBA, as I indicated, or, indeed, from the Players Association. To explain their respective positions, the Commissioner of the NBA, was invited to testify or to send a representative, but has declined to do so, and the same goes in regard to the representative on behalf of the Players Association.
We will hear shortly from a panel, including several of these old-time players, and hopefully, the witnesses can explain how and why this situation arose. Among other things, I do not understand why some pioneer players receive pension credit for their military service, and others did not. Based on what I have seen thus far, I really do not understand why the NBA sees no grounds to extend pension benefits to the players who have provided the basis for the prosperity and durability of the present-day league. Today's players earn multi-million dollar contracts and generous pensions, and the NBA garners millions from television and merchandising agreements, all as a direct result of the unselfish dedication of these pioneer players.
So I look forward to what the testimony will be today.
Congressman Don Payne, the gentleman from New Jersey, is, I understand, in transit from Africa, and may be able to make a portion of this hearing. He is our Ranking Democrat Member of this Committee, and will not be present at least for the initial part of the hearing. My good friend, Congressman Lipinski, also from the State of Illinois is here. And, Bill, at this time if you'd like to say a few words, we'd be glad to hear your comments.
[The statement of Chairman Fawell follows:]
WRITTEN OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE HARRIS FAWELL, CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONS, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SEE APPENDIX A
written statement of the honorable donald payne, ranking member, subcommittee on education and the workforce, u.s. house of representatives - see Appendix b
Mr. Lipinski. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Congressman Fawell failed to mention in his introduction that he and I are two of the long-time suffering Chicago White Sox fans in the Chicago area, and we are particularly suffering this year because of the plight of our White Sox.
Chairman Fawell. I think they won last night?
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM LIPINSKY, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Mr. Lipinski. Yes, they did last night. And Frank hit a home run, and so did Bell hit a home run. It's one of the highlights of the season.
But, I first of all want to say that I am eternally grateful to Congressman Fawell for having this hearing. It means a great deal to me, and I know it means a great deal to the gentlemen sitting out here prepared to testify and the other pioneer players in the National Basketball League, the Basketball Association of America, and the National Basketball Association.
I can't understand why the NBA or the Players Association have not made an accommodation with these players. The tremendous amount of money that is involved today in NBA basketball, is just staggering. And if they did the right thing by the pioneer players who have been excluded from the pension plan, it would be a minute amount of money in comparison to what the NBA is involved in. And yet, it could do such enormous good for the pioneer players who have been excluded from the pension plan.
So, I hope that this hearing today will convince the NBA and the Players Association to get on board and try to do something with the pioneer players they have excluded. And, once again, I say I am eternally grateful to Congressman Fawell for holding this hearing, because if it hadn't been for him, the resolution that I have introduced would have gone absolutely no place. So, Harris, I really thank you for this hearing.
Chairman Fawell. And it's my pleasure. It is a very unique set of circumstances, and so I look forward to the comments of the witnesses. I only wish that we had somebody from the National Basketball Association here to explain their side of the situation, and also from the Players Association. It would seem to me that especially in the latter group that there would be enough drive and interest and concern that they would be here to express themselves. But we do have some very fine people here who have some tremendous background and knowledge of the subject matter.
Our first witness will be Bill Tosheff, President of the Pre-1965 NBA Players Association. Mr. Tosheff played for the Milwaukee Hawks and the Indiana Olympians from 1951 to 1953.
Our next witness will be John Ezersky, a player of the 1940's for, among others, the Boston Celtics and the Baltimore Bullets. Mr. Ezersky, am I murdering your name or is that coming pretty close, is a decorated veteran of the D-Day landing. And today, he still drives a taxi in San Francisco, California.
Following him will be Walter Budko, a member of the Baltimore Bullets and the Philadelphia Warriors from 1948 to 1951.
Our final witness will be Professor Neil Isaacs of the University of Maryland. Professor Isaacs is a basketball historian and author of the book, "Vintage NBA: The Pioneer Era."
I'd like to note that, as I've indicated before, we do not have the representatives from the NBA and from the Players Association who, unfortunately, could not be here, although we did have a written statement from a representative of the Players Association, and that will be a part of the record. They, I think it's fair to say, did indicate that they do support in general the desires that you gentlemen have of being able to be a part of the collective bargaining agreement that exists between the NBA and the Players Association.
[The statement of the NBA Players Association follows:]
Statement of the National Basketball Players association - see appendix c
Chairman Fawell. Excuse me, there is a statement from the National Basketball Association's, from the Commissioner's office also, I understand. And I believe that it's fair to say that their position is not in accordance with the views of you gentlemen.
[The statement of Mr. Mishkin follows:]
Statement of the National Basketball Association - see appendix d
Chairman Fawell. We will commence with Mr. Tosheff, and then move right down the line. And then, after all of you have had a chance to testify, then we'll have questions from the members of Congress who are here. And when we do that, feel free, as one person testifies if you have some differences of opinion or when it comes your turn, certainly express yourself. But also, when we're in the question and answer period, feel free to interrupt and give your views. We're here to try to understand the situation in which you folks are very, very much concerned.
We have a general rule here that we try to confine our opening remarks to five minutes. We don't pull people off the chair and take a shepherd's crook to pull you off stage or anything like that, but you'll see the little light is going from the green to the yellow and then the red, which indicates that the five minutes has gone by, so when you see the red light if you could bring your comments as soon as possible to a close, we would appreciate that. Mr. Tosheff, we'll start with your testimony.
Mr. Tosheff. Well, thank you. Is it possible to unscrew the red light before we start?
Chairman Fawell. Well, if you can do it very discretely, yes.
Mr. Tosheff. Well, it's taken me ten years to get here, and five minutes I don't think is going to be long enough. But let me do the best I can.
Chairman Fawell. All right, and we'll try to accommodate.
Mr. Tosheff. Well, thank you very much.
Chairman Fawell. We usually have more witnesses. So, we'll perhaps be able to give you a minute or more so.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM TOSHEFF, PRESIDENT, PRE- 1965 PLAYERS ASSOCIATION, SAN DIEGO, CAlifornia
Mr. Tosheff. Thank you, Chairman Fawell, and to the members of the subcommittee.
Pension fairness for NBA players is the agenda today. The journey to be heard this day is far beyond thank you. To this Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations of the House Committee Education and The Workforce, deep appreciation is voiced through me from our pioneer-era veterans of professional basketball, pre-1965, some 75 to 80 men. Time has taken its toll. Time has also helped. With each passing year, progressive media support for us has consistently increased. The message, always amplified, has been that there still exists a group of pioneer professional basketball players that were excluded from the pension revision in the year 1988.
For whatever reason the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have not evened the playing field, for whatever reason, military experience for qualifying credits has been totally skewed. A double standard for pension qualification, plus a two-tiered payment structure, cause an unfairness bordering on discrimination.
William O. Lipinski, Congressman, Third District, from Illinois, took our cause to heart, saw the injustice, and, now through his efforts as well as the gathering of over 55 co-sponsoring Congresspersons, have constructed the provisions of Resolution Number 83, our quest for pension parity. From each of our Pre-1965 NBA Players Association members, we say again and again thank you for your efforts on our behalf. To have a body of Congress, the Representative of the citizens of America, to hear facts relating to Resolution Number 83 and before this nation is truly without parallel. Hearings such as ours today is the only way to representative justice. Now having said this, I would like to focus in on the pension program as was devised in 1965.
This is going to be a no-holds, no-barred discussion on my feelings, as I represent my players association. And let me take it back in history a little bit. In 1937, the National Basketball League was the major league at that time period, basically structured in the Mid-West. And, several years later, those interested in the hockey business back East had the idea of taken their hockey arenas while the teams were away and bringing in professional basketball.
In 1946, the BAA, the Basketball Association of America was founded. At that time period, there was an interplay between who was going to get the best players, though there was a lot player rating going on. But before the Basketball Association of America started, there was very important thing: how to get the people into the hockey arenas in order to see pro basketball.
At this time, I want to give credit to a team called the Harlem Globetrotters who were the preliminary players in most of the games in the hockey arenas. They brought the people in. They should be given credit for the success of the BAA, and even the NBA.
Now, moving forward, in 1949, the BAA and the NBL agreed to merge. This was the beginning of the NBA, the National Basketball Association. 1949 was the date. In these years, the NBA has grown to be a multi-mega billion-dollar business - a big time business. 1949 to 1965 was a long period of time where players weren't even represented, nor did they have a pension. So, in 1965, David Stern, who was brought in as commissioner in 1984, made a sweetheart agreement with a group calling themselves the NBA old timers, basically structured in the eastern part of the United States. What they agreed to do is, instead of adhering to the three-year minimum playing requirement, of which upon retirement you go $200 a month for every year you played, they set in motion a plan where you had to play five years of minimum playing time and receive $100 a month for every year played. What that did was knock out the three-and four-year players. That's one of the injustices.
If you turn to exhibit number one on your information sheet, you will see a list of media coverage in our behalf, and you can see that there are over 16 newspaper articles written about our quest. You will see radio and TV coverage in our behalf. And that told me that someone's in our corner in this, not the legal case, but a moral cause, a moral case.
Now, every time one of the major media would interview either myself as part of my group regarding this situation, and then they would interview the NBA, David Stern, the Commissioner, would put forth statements such as, in 1997, in a segment, "Running Out of Time," by David Elrich, his comments were "There always has to be line drawing that has to be done on some rational basis, and we have tried to do it." Now, if somebody will explain to me what rational basis is regarding a three-year minimum and a five-year minimum, please let me know.
The second quote is, "I would say that we and our players have put in tens of millions of dollars, but if you say it's 10 years, they'll be someone with 9; if you say it's 5, they'll be someone with 4; if you say it's 3, they'll be someone with less.'' I'm sorry, Mr. Stern, if he was a 10-year player, he already got a pension. If he was 9 years, he got a pension. Eight, seven, six, five, and, in some cases, even a four and three. That doesn't hold water.
Recently, I appeared on three television shows that were national segments. On May 3, 1998, ABC World News Tonight on Saturday; May 4, 1998, ABC's Good Morning America Sunday; and then on July 4, 1998, on CNN on Page One, and the response from David Stern was all the same, and "it is highly unusual for any business to provide new pension benefits to employees who worked in the business so long ago." Now that interested me. If you look at 1965 to 1988, 23 years went by before they included the pre-1965 men, based on five years of playing time. From 1988 to today, 1998, it's just 10 years. I still don't understand what he's trying to say.
Early on, I mentioned something about a sweetheart deal. And if you would turn to page two of your exhibits, I want to make a quote or present to you some quotes. When I mentioned the NBA Oldtimers' Association, these were 104 men, 15 of which were Hall-of-Famers. My association has no Hall of Fame. I always say, who gave you the ball to become a Hall-of-Famer? We belong on the same page. Well, in 1987 the Associated Press released in Springfield, Massachusetts, at the Hall of Fame meeting, the president of the NBA Oldtimers' Association, Gene Conley, backed by Hall-of Famer Bob Cousy, said, "that the Association has proposed the NBA pay benefits of $100 per month for every year of service to the pre-1965 players with at least five years of playing time." Even the players from our same era, men we played with and against, turned their cheek to us, the three-and four-year men, and left us out.
NBA Commissioner David Stern in the same article is solidly behind the proposal, and we proposed the Basketball Association owners that this quote came out. He told me privately that all the pressure in the world wouldn't make him do it. He was going to recommend a plan to the owners because it was the right and proper thing to do, said Bob Cousy, Hall-of-Famer. This is David Stern's words.
I have a funny feeling that David Stern does not want to be pushed. He doesn't want to be pressured. He's the head of a multi-billion dollar business that's growing steadily, and I think that's probably one of the big problems we've run into.
To amplify a little bit about the National Basketball Oldtimers' Association, there was a letter put forth asking Mr. Stern to take the Oldtimers and bring them into pension inclusion in 1988. A letter was written by, and this is item number four, a letter was written by Paul Hoffman, one of the NBA Oldtimers to Stern, and he is quoted as saying, "as you know, the NBA Oldtimers' Pension Committee has honored your request of putting a moratorium on media support.'' And they did this. And why did David Stern ask them to do this? He asked them because he didn't want the rest of the ball players throughout the country to understand there was something going on with the pension inclusion, and didn't want to be bothered by people calling him up and asking him, how do we participate? That's what I call a conspiracy.
If you would turn to exhibit number three, it is a questionnaire sent out by the National Basketball Oldtimers' Association, and the third item says, "should we break our media moratorium that was requested by Mr. Stern through Bob Cousy?" Again, there was this little enclave of people who had their own agenda and still left out the three-and four-year players I believe because there were only $26 million in the pension fund. Today, it's $111 million.
Going back to the pension inclusion in 1988, there was some important military facets that were put into this plan. The first one was, if your playing career was interrupted by the military service, you got to use that military time as part of your NBA qualifying time for pension inclusion. Or, if your playing career was slightly or immediately preceded by military, you got to use that time. That means that men who played one year in the NBL or BAA, they were included, along with the NBA, than men if they played one year and had four years of military, they still got a five-year pension. And some of those people, we have found out, played not more than 17 games or 20 games in one season. Still, the three-and four-year men were left out.
In my own particular case, I spent three years in the Air Corps, went to college, came out of college, played in the NBA for three years, and receive no pension. To amplify what I'm talking about, I will tell you about two brothers. One went to the University of Kentucky, went into the military, came out and went to college, came out and went to the NBA for three years. He does not receive a pension. His brother, went to the University of Louisville, from 1952 to 1956, four years, was required to be in the ROTC, and upon his graduation had to spend two years in the military for his requirement, played then for three years in the NBA, and receives a five-year pension. Not equitable at all. And we are addressing that situation.
One other aspect that I have that will be brought up on another day is what is the fiduciary responsibility of the NBA to look down to its past players and to see if they did, in fact, have qualifying time in the military, which butts up into their professional playing time? The NBA has negated this fiduciary responsibility. And we're looking at that very seriously, because I believe that ERISA in its laws say that the employer is responsible for making all ex-employees, present employees aware of their pension status.
I see the red light's on.
Chairman Fawell. If you could bring your comments to a close,
Mr. Tosheff. Can we meet at dinner maybe, to finish this up?
Chairman Fawell. We will have discussion time after_
Mr. Tosheff. Okay.
Chairman Fawell. After the testimony.
Mr. Tosheff. I do want to mention this, though: Sitting next to me is John Ezersky, and John drives a taxicab in San Francisco. His time is 48 years, so he qualifies for a taxi driver. But the people of France, because he made the landing on Operation Overlord and the invasion of Europe, in his tank battalion, the French people, through their government, said we want to say thank you to John and others who made that beach landing. John's tank could not hit the beachhead because at that time there were over 2,000 bodies laying dead on the beaches of Normandy. The people over 50 years said thank you for his participation. Do you think the NBA would do this for us? I don't know. I hope so. But I have the certificate and medal, which will be presented by Congressman Lipinski, who is very active in this mode, after our hearing. And John deserves this.
So I'm going to stop right now, with the hope that maybe, if I hear something that I'd like to chirp in on, I'd like to come back at the time.
[The statement of Mr. Tosheff follows:]
WRITTEN OPENING STATEMENT OF WILLIAM TOSHEFF SEE APENDIX E
Chairman Fawell. And I thank you, and you will be allowed to chirp.
Mr. Tosheff. Thank you very much.
Chairman Fawell. Mr. Ezersky, your testimony will be presented now. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF JOHN EZERSKY, A FORMER PLAYER, WALNUT CREEK, CAlifornia
Mr. Ezersky. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, this is going to be a tough act to follow.
I was born and raised in lower Manhattan. I truly believe that God put me on this earth to play basketball. My soul centered on nothing but the game. It's still a life sustaining memory. Now, at the age of 76 years, still driving a taxi in San Francisco for my 48th year, those memories of the game I loved have been tainted, tainted by decree of probably the most powerful sports head in the world, that would be David Stern, the Commissioner of the mega-billion dollar professional basketball business, the National Basketball Association.
I am not appearing as a witness this day to put anything, anyone, or anybody on trial. But, in a sense, it is a trial. As a plaintiff, I charge the NBA has forgotten those who suffered the rigors and the unbelievable travel and the sacrificing of their bodies and families to play professional basketball. To be a part and the beginning of something that made me proud, it was worth it all. Then, something happened. In 1988, the NBA and the Players Association made a move to include just some of the men from our era into a pension program. What bothered me is that three or four-year veterans were left out. Prior to my pro activity, just as I expected a great career, World War II took me away. Even when I was part of the Normandy invasion, with the 747 Tank Battalion, to free Europe, I still dreamed of a pro career. I had, if I came out whole, the desire to play again. I did.
In the war, we had to be team players. Basketball is the same. It is conducive to be successful. When you break up a team, your loss sustains. So there was a loss when I realized just a segment of the men I played with and played against were brought into the 1988 pension program, which originally started in 1965. What I learned was that the NBA office statement for the difference was as follows: "Two decades later, in recognition of those individuals who had contributed greatly to the formation of the league, the NBA took the unprecedented step of extending the pension benefits to those players whose careers ended prior to 1965."
This did not mean all pre-1965 pioneers. This was a direct ongoing quote from Russell Granik, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. I could not believe that the playing field was uneven. To leave out men of three and four years of playing time, by raising the minimum playing requirement to five years instead of the original and still sustaining three years, was beyond moral contention.
Through the leadership of Bill Tosheff, I saw where representation to cure a long-standing injustice was gaining momentum. Now, this day, July 15, 1998, I am able to sit here and let you see firsthand the man who needs to be retired after 48 years of driving a cab. I do not want charity. I just want a fair shake, like the others got. I feel that I too was part of something great: pro basketball. Sitting before this Committee gives me added strength to know this day somebody cares about myself and others who deserve pension inclusion. Never did I imagine having this opportunity to appear in the great Nation's Capital.
I have learned on this day too that I am to be presented with a gold medal, a "medal of celebration," ordered by the people of France, through their government, for participating in the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1945. My thank you to Congressman Lipinski for his work in obtaining for me this honor. The people of France can remember 50 years ago, why could not the NBA remember 10 years ago. I will go back to San Francisco with my heart filled with hope, and yet I know that I will again sit myself in a cab, putting in another 12-or 14-hour shift.
Incidentally, I have read where I, and others like me, have a life expectancy of 83 years of age. This information was provided by the major insurance actuaries. I'm dry. Hey, Tosh, give me some strength, will you? Jesus.
In this case, that would not be a burden to the pension coffers of the NBA for many years. The receiving off the pension would be on a declining basis. How can the NBA lose?
I must say God bless the committee, and God bless America.
[The statement of Mr. Ezersky follows:]
WRITTEN OPENING STATEMENT OF JOHN EZERSKY, A FORMER PLAYER, WALNUT CREEK, California - SEE APPENDIX F
Chairman Fawell. Well, and God bless you, sir, for your kind comments. Again, I only wish that we had someone with a little bit of heart from the Players Association, and someone with a little bit of heart from the Commissioner's office here to tell us their defense to the comments that we're hearing.
Mr. Walter Budko, we'll now hear your testimony.
STATEMENT OF WALTER BUDKO, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER, LUTHERVILLE, MARYLAND
Mr. Budko. Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Subcommittee, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to testify regarding the unfairness of the NBA Pension Plan as it applies to the pre-1965 players.
As a bit of background, I completed my first year at Columbia University in 1943, and enlisted in the United States Navy in May of 1943. After serving on active duty, from 1943 to 1946, much time in the Pacific, I returned to college under the GI bill to resume and complete my B.S. degree in 1948. I must say I was scheduled to graduate Columbia in 1946. In 1948, I joined the Baltimore Bullets of the BAA and played for a total of four years, and I ended my career with the Philadelphia Warriors, in 1952.
My years in the NBA were enjoyable, but in 1952, I made a personal decision to pursue other endeavors; and I never looked back.
The original pension plan which was dated in 1965 didn't interest me much, inasmuch as it excluded a generation of players that played prior to 1965, and I was not involved.
However, the amended pension plan of 1988 was another story, as it held the promise of some parity with the post-1965 players. Now, the plot thickens. I was naive enough to believe that my previous playing time, plus military service, would certainly qualify me for some benefits. I also thought that because of the aforementioned facts, I would receive information of the issues involved in the new plan. No information was ever sent or relayed to me. Not one word from the NBA, the Players Association, or any groups that were established; who reportedly were there to represent the pre-1965 players.
Well, the rest is history. The new pension plan was adopted in 1988, and I submitted my petition for benefits in March of 1989. The pension committee denied my request on the basis that my military service did not count inasmuch as I had the audacity to return back to school in 1946. Let me point out that one, my class was supposed to graduate in 1946; two, there was no B.A.A. in 1946, so I have no knowledge of professional basketball at that time. It is important to note that many current pension recipients have received military credit for the same period of time that I was in the military and received no benefits. Why the double standard? Was my wartime service any less valuable than theirs? Was my life and career plans interrupted as much as theirs? Apparently, the men who drafted the new pension agreement believed in this double standard.
The stated purpose of this hearing is to address the issue of fairness, and I contend that the NBA and the Players Association have not demonstrated this trait in their dealing with us pre-1965 players. Why should benefits be available after three years to post-1965 players, and five years for others? Were not the contributions of the "pioneer" groups as meaningful to the success of the NBA as the latter group? The military issue I discussed earlier.
In closing, I am sure that the committee is aware that in 1997, the NBA amended their pension plan again, whereby they doubled the pension benefits to all current pensioners. As far as my group, the gentlemen that sit beside me, we received no consideration whatsoever.
Thank you for your time.
[The statement of Mr. Budko follows:]
WRITTEN OPENING STATEMENT OF WALTER BUDKO, A FORMER PLAYER, LUTHERVILLE, Maryland SEE APPENDIX G
Chairman Fawell. And I thank you very much for your testimony. Professor Isaacs.
STATEMENT OF NEIL ISAACS, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND
Mr. Isaacs. Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee, ever since as a student I saw my first televised committee, I've always wanted to say those words.
Now I think it's appropriate to quote from that very memorable event and address some words from that historical occasion and address them in absentia to Mr. David Stern. Have you no shame? Have you no sense of decency?
I begin my testimony with a quotation from Senator Bill Bradley, who wrote the foreword to my book , "Vintage NBA,'' in which he said: "Despite the fact that professional sports has become a worldwide, multibillion-dollar industry, the day-to-day business of its franchises, details of ownership, player contracts, and retirement benefits_remain obscure to the public. All the while, these pioneers of basketball, whose military service limited their professional careers to a couple of years less than the five required for vesting in the NBA pension plan, receive none of the fruits of their early labor, which helped to build the NBA of today. As a player who benefited from the growth of a players union in the 1960's and 1970's, and from the subsequent collective bargaining agreements which loosened the owner choke-hold on player movement and provided players with per diem money, severance pay, disability insurance, medical insurance, increased pension benefits, better playing conditions, first-class air travel, and moving expenses, I am pleased that this book has recognized the unique contributions of the pioneer players and has called for their inclusion in the NBA's pension plan."
You have to remember that at the time that this league began, that we're talking about an era when sports had become a sacred possession in the interests of the morale of a nation. Sports had been protected and preserved throughout the war years. Not only had they been kept going on the home front despite travel restrictions and the draining of the talent pool, but they were also actively sponsored all over the world by service teams and performers. A national commitment to athletics became justified or demanded as a bulwark of morale, public, and military. Athletes themselves comprised a substantial cadre of what was called "special services.''
In all fairness, it must be said that the NBA does recognize and honor certain service to the nation, but only on restricted terms. I find it no less patriotic or honorable when careers are shortened by military service that took place prior to rookie seasons in specified leagues rather than as a an interruption in play in those leagues. And I would include intercollegiate play because the intercollegiate basketball activity at that time, just as it is now, serves as a minor league, developing talent for professional basketball, the National Basketball Association. Remember that we're also talking about a decade in which virtually all able-bodied, that is, sports-capable, men were liable and likely to have served in World War II or the Korean War, or both.
The NBA was begun in 1946, as the BAA, as a way to market the growing popularity of basketball, filling the dark nights in mostly hockey arenas, primarily in the population centers of the east. The existing NBL, then almost a decade old, had the majority of the outstanding players, but they played in small facilities throughout the Midwest, in places like Sheboygan, Anderson, Fort Wayne, and Waterloo. After its first year, the BAA lost four of its original eleven teams through financial reversals. In the third season, the two best teams in the world, Minneapolis and Rochester, came over from the NBL along with two others, but financial success was still elusive.
Newly named the NBA, the league stumbled through a fourth season after incorporating most of the surviving NBL clubs in an awkward 17-team alignment. By the end of its pioneer decade, only eight teams remained in the league, only three of the charter members of the BAA. Costs of travel rarely were covered by gate receipts and most players had to earn a living, often at hard labor, between seasons.
Many historical developments contributed to the eventual success of the league, and I'm not going to detail those at this time. But the one constant factor that kept the league alive so that it could mature to its present position of unprecedented affluence was the willingness of players to continue to play for the love of the game. Under conditions that now seem like primitive servitude, they made their essential contributions to the survival of the pro game. Only in a state of amnesia or sublime arrogance can it be argued that five years of service from these men must be required for participation in a pension plan that includes players from the post-1965 period with three or four years of active play.
The league's position in response to the resolution at hand, as expressed in its statement to ABC and repeated in presentations subsequently seems to me neither ethically defensible nor financially justified. Commissioner Stern said that it would be "highly unusual for any business to provide new pension benefits to employees who worked in the business so long ago.''
Let me underline the irony of that phrase, "highly unusual." The NBA is a highly unusual business, with salaries of its employees averaging more than $2 million a year, and with exclusive licensing and franchising rights, which in the past year provided NBA properties with $2 billion. The fact is that the NBA could not have survived as a continuing entity until 1965 without the service of those very men whose contributions it will still not honor.
The NBA's position is analogous to defendants in infringement of copyright suits, who argue that their engineers and scientists would have come up with the same discoveries eventually, anyway, so why should they pay royalties. The excluded players, on the other hand, are in the position of ex-spouses who struggle to put their mates through graduate school, and having been ``retired,'' seek some share of the financial success and security built by those professionals but on the backs of their "pioneering" sacrifices.
Thank you for your attention and consideration. And special thanks to Congressman Lipinski who joins this effort.
[The statement of Mr. Isaacs follows:]
WRITTEN OPENING STATEMENT OF PROFESSOR NEIL ISAACS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, SILVER SPRINGS, Maryland SEE APPENDIX H
Chairman Fawell. Well, I thank you very much for your testimony and for all of you. We are, as members of Congress, looking at a sense of the Congress resolution. We're really not in a position to legally obligate people to collectively bargain, or to collective bargain in a certain way, or to dictate as to what the unit of collective bargaining shall be. But obviously, the issue that is being presented to us today is that this unit of collective bargaining is a kind of boggled up unit. It was enlarged in 1988 and did leave a lot of former players out.
I guess I look at it somewhat how an average fan might look at it. The average fan can't understand the big money of sports today. You see an awful lot of players making fabulous sums of money, and I think also many owners of sports franchises also. And we have mixed emotions about that. We like to think of our players, I think, as being the perfect people who have all of the fine attributes of a hero. I think people can understand the plight in which you gentlemen find yourself, for instance, when you're in your retirement years or should be in your retirement years, not all of you are, and yet have a very small, non-existent pension, obviously; and certainly ought to be considered.
I think there were several estimates given in the testimony about what the total costs would be assuming that your plight was finally recognized. But on a per year basis, based on the number of pioneers who are still living, what would that be roughly?
Mr. Tosheff. Chairman, Fawell, if you don't mind. We've extrapolated some numbers for the 75 to 80 men. To pay us retroactively, back to 1988, would take $6 million. To pay us on an annual basis would be $650,000 a year on a declining basis. $650,000 is the annual party festivity fee that they pay at the All-Star game for one night's festivities -$650,000. And I've been to four of them. So that's basically what we're looking at.
Chairman Fawell. A small portion of Michael Jordan's salary, I guess.
Mr. Tosheff. That's true.
Chairman Fawell. For a day, I guess.
Mr. Tosheff. Yes. But I think the important thing is that the declining basis situation where the actuaries in insurance say 83 years. We might see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it looks like a freight train coming the other way. So we've got to get ourselves together on this and get our people taken care of. And that's what it's going to take, pure and simple.
Chairman Fawell. Are you asking for the make-up of that shortfall between 1988 and today?
Mr. Tosheff. Yes, sir. That's right. Retroactive. That's the penalty they have to pay.
Chairman Fawell. All right. That's fair enough.
Do you know, and perhaps Professor Isaacs you could answer this question, is there an analogy in some of the other major sports; professional baseball, football, maybe hockey, where collective bargaining begins? Obviously, Mr. Stern is correct in saying you draw the line somewhere, I suppose, in a collective bargaining unit, but is there some analogy in another sport with what we have here?
Mr. Isaacs. I would address that slippery slope argument that he uses: you know, if we give five years, what about four? If we give three, people with two will want in. Slippery slope arguments work on both sides of the slope. If we grant that equity, that is, equal number of years, no matter when those years occurred, does not apply, then why couldn't the league arbitrarily decide to lengthen the amount of service required? It's not a solid argument.
As far as the analogies are concerned, I'm not entirely knowledgeable about these matters, but it seems to me that major league baseball has moved to include all of its veteran players, no matter how long they served in some kind of benefit plan. And they reach back into history for surviving veterans. I think the NFL has a graduated scale for benefits, and my understanding is that it's a minimum of four years for the older players, and it's five years for current players. But don't use me as an authority on that. I'm not very good on that topic.
Mr. Tosheff. That's changing.
Chairman Fawell. Do any of the others have anything?
Mr. Tosheff. Oh, yes, I can trip in on this one really well. The thing with the NFL is that they have about five scales that they operate with. And if you go before 1989, they said five years, but that's being changed now to three. You start from $210 a month for every year played, and it goes all the way up to $425, and they're moving the gap closer and closer together. And you'll have an average of three years if, you know, you extrapolate to that area. In pro hockey, you have three years. In baseball, you play one day in the major leagues, you're in pension status.
Chairman Fawell. Have they gone back, though, and established it and included people who were there, back in the years, when I first was following this?
Mr. Tosheff. Yes, well that's basically the purpose of a union, to make all these benefits available as the income progresses. And I think that the NBA would have no trouble with the $111 million fund, to reach down and wipe us out in a hurry, and stop the arguing. But we're going to keep pursuing it as best we can.
Chairman Fawell. I mentioned before that it's relatively unusual when you do invite members of the labor union to come to a hearing like this, and also with a representative of management, which is what the NBA, I gathered_
Mr. Tosheff. Well, the Players Association just came back from Hawaii, where they had their annual meeting. And for two days, their telephone system has been completely shut down. And I was surprised to get this statement from them today at the late time frame. But they are, they've always been in our corner, but keep telling me that they don't have the clout. It's up to the owners. Incidentally, I have talked to one owner. He's the owner of the Phoenix Suns. His name is Jerry Coangelo, from Chicago Heights, Illinois. And he's very sympathetic to our situation. He wants to find out why David Stern has not taken any action on our behalf and why this is going on. He's in our favor. And I think what we need is more owners to step up to the line, and that's what we're attempting to do.
Chairman Fawell. So you're attempting to communicate directly with the owners now also?
Mr. Tosheff. Well, its a tough sell, but I think with men like Jerry Coangelo, who's very progressive in his own right, I mean, in Phoenix, Arizona, he controls baseball, hockey, women's basketball, you name it. And he's very, very, very well respected in Phoenix. And he's the kind of guy that's a fighter. I think he'll step in our corner.
Chairman Fawell. It would seem to be an apropos time right now with a lockout and collective bargaining in full swing.
Mr. Tosheff. Well, I think that's true. I think the NBA is on some kind of collision course with failure, believe or not. And I'll tell you why. As a business student from Indiana University, we learned that there's a term called the law of diminishing return. The bigger you get, the more people are involved, the more salaries you pay, the less profits you make. And I think with this lockout now, and the arguing that their overall costs exceed 51.4 percent of their income revenue, and is now up to 58 percent, that's why they're in the lockout situation. And they're also trying to control the exorbitant salaries of the rookies. So, when they sign a contract, for example, with Ted Turner for $2 billion for TV rights, of course, the Players Association wants half that money. So it's going to the trough and seeing who gets there and feeds the most, that is what's happening right now. And I think the law of diminishing return, if the NBA's not careful, they're going to have some problems. But they are going to go worldwide, and it's going to get bigger and bigger. But I don't know if they can sustain.
Chairman Fawell. Well, it would certainly seem that if they're interested in goodwill, in public goodwill, that they should take a good, long look and at least a good, fair hearing from folks such as you. Yes, Mr. Budko.
Mr. Budko. Mr. Chairman, this has been going on, as you can see, since 1988. And I'm getting older. John's getting older. Tosh's getting older, although he still has the verve and everything. The point being that I would like to see closure on this thing. The issue has been really simply of fairness and, I don't see any fairness or any attempt at fairness by the NBA officials and I'll put the blame on the Players Association. If they have the gumption to be on our side, we would have had action by now. And I think everybody in this room probably would recognize that. But they haven't, and I'm tired. And I would like to see it ended one way or the other.
Chairman Fawell. Well, I tried to imply that, I guess, or really expressed it that, you know, action speaks louder than words. Both should be here, it would seem to me. And confronting the problem and giving you the respect I think that you deserve. The Chair would recognize Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. Lipinski. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Getting to the question that Chairman Fawell asked earlier in regards to the pension plans in football, hockey, baseball, when they established their pension plans did they take in everyone that had played in that professional sport at that time, or have the plans been modified as time has gone one?
Mr. Tosheff. They take it back to the years that they participated in. It's a gradual process, going up to the present day.
Mr. Lipinski. But, when the National Football League established their pension plan I think it was early 1960's. I think they included everybody, back to 1920. I realize that if you played in 1921, you don't get as much as if you played in 1959. But they did.
Mr. Tosheff. Pete Rozell was quoted in San Francisco as one of the Hall-of Fame gatherers in San Francisco, several years before he passed away, and he was asked, what do you think is the most memorable thing that you did as Commissioner in the NFL. And he said, you know, without a doubt, I'll be glad to reach back in the 1940's and beyond to bring our guys in and to recognize them by pension inclusion for their efforts in building the league.
Mr. Lipinski. And I know baseball did that. And hockey is the same way. They went back with their pension plan right to the beginning.
Mr. Tosheff. Yes.
Mr. Lipinski. The Conley-Cousy Group, who, in 1988, negotiated this sweetheart deal for themselves, were they paid retroactively?
Mr. Tosheff. No, that was the beginning, 1980 was the beginning of their inclusion, so it was not retroactive. But, for example, if they or I, which has been the case, find somebody and pick evidence of their fifth year, for example, I would make them known. They would apply for it, and they would get their pension; and they would get retroactive pay. That's happened in three instances as far as my experience is concerned with myself. And I'm sure that the Conley-Cousy Group, the NBA Oldtimers, probably did the same thing. Because once the word gets out, the telephones start ringing and everybody wants to find out if they're included. I'm pretty sure that they passed it on to some other people.
Mr. Lipinski. Okay, but there was no_the pension plan went into effect originally in 1965?
Mr. Tosheff. First, that was the initial pension plan: three years, $200 a month upon retirement, although when you became 62, you received the retirement money. But at age 55, you could take all your vested money at that time period, and wipe out your pension. You could take a lump sum payment.
One other important issue is, it's not really an issue, it's a fact that in the post-1965, from 1965 on to today, if a player becomes deceased, his wife is vested 100 percent of his pension. But the pre-1965 people only get 50 percent through their spouses upon them dying. And that's another issue that's kind of skewed.
Mr. Lipinski. Does anybody know when Cousy retired?
Mr. Tosheff. He retired in late 1960.
Mr. Lipinski. In the late 1960's?
Mr. Tosheff. Yes. But see, Bob Cousy, is an interesting fellow. He's a Hall-of Famer. He can walk in anybody's door unannounced and be heard. And I think as the background person, he was able to create a lot of pushing to what they were trying to do, so he was the backup man for that whole program. And there were other Hall-of Famers, as I said early on. Today, there are 24 Hall-of Famers that are getting those pensions, and I think the original amount was 15. That gave it the credibility, the clout, to walk in and say, you know, as David Stern and all their statements say, to those who contributed greatly to the enhancement of the league be brought in. Well, as I said earlier, who gave them the ball? Guys like us who were part of this whole program of making the game better and to the success of the NBA.
Mr. Lipinski. Is there anyone who played in the 1930s whos collecting a pension?
Mr. Tosheff. Yes, there are 17 men that are collecting pensions from the NBL, beginning in 1937. Because in this pension amendment number five, they added not only the Basketball Association of America, but they added the NBL, and that started in 1937. Now you could imagine in 1937, a man started and got into service in 1942 or 1943, and spent three or four years in the service, then came back and played some more. This guy's got a 14-to 15-year pension program, and it's not bad money.
Mr. Lipinski. Well, I figured it out that you could actually play for the Oshkosh All Stars one year in 1941, and then been in the service 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945, never played professional basketball again, but you'd get your pension because you'd have your five years because you would have gone in the military service after one year and been in there for four.
Mr. Tosheff. I think I mentioned that earlier, where I've found evidence where one player is getting a pension played 17 ball games.
Mr. Budko. May I?
Mr. Lipinski. I think that goes a little further. You can take the reverse turn: there were fellows that didn't play professional basketball, and went into the service 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, got out in 1946, when the NBA play started_or the BAA_played one year in the BAA, and their entitled to benefits.
Because you didn't play in 1946 and you came on later, they don't give you any credit for your military service?
Mr. Budko. That's correct. I went back. A lot of us went back to school.
Mr. Isaacs. Walt played in the minor leagues at Columbia.
Mr. Budko. No, we didn't have minor leagues at Columbia.
Chairman Fawell. No, that is very true.
Mr. Budko. That was the Ivy League in Columbia.
Mr. Tosheff. Congressman Lipinski, I think I related earlier that part of this amendment, number five, as far as the military situation was concerned, that if your playing career was interrupted, and that held true through the Korean Conflict, that you could use those years. We have a man who is a general, and he went back into the Korean War, played two years in the pros, and gets a five-year pension. He felt so guilty about that he turned his pension not to us to fight this situation, but he gave it to the NBA as far as a charitable contribution was concerned. In fact, I really got mad at him. I'm pretty ticked.
Mr. Lipinski. Who could tell me where the pension money comes from? Does it come from the National Basketball Association or does it come from the Players Association? And does the Players Association get the money from the National Basketball Association? And is it a general fund? Is each team taxed so much for the pension plan? Is each player taxed so much? What is the actual mechanics of how this pension money ultimately is collected and ultimately comes to a beneficiary?
Mr. Tosheff. It comes out of revenue. And for years, it's been one percent of the take. When most of the other sports get as high as six percent. And that's where it comes from, so it's equally shared by the owners and the Players Association and whatever benefits. You see, the NBA has become such a mega-business that it has what they call the NBA properties. For example, if they play an exhibition game in Japan, 30,000 seats at a $100 a seat are sold within 12 hours. Well, they've got plans now to go inter-continental with professional basketball. So when I tell you one percent that doesn't look very good, does it? Well, other leagues are at six percent. So the money is there.
Mr. Lipinski. Well, there's no question the money is there. Does that include the merchandising, too?
Mr. Tosheff. Yes, it does. That's part of NBA properties. I may offer David Stern to give us the money on the sale of the NBA hats and T-shirts, and we'd be taken care of.
Mr. Lipinski. Well, they just came in the last year or two with the shooting shirts. Now, there's something new that they can sell. They never had shooting shirts before, just the warm-ups and the game jerseys. But now we have shooting shirts also.
I have one last question. I want to know did any of you fellows ever play in the Professional Basketball League of America?
That's the one that the Gherish went into that folded in about 16 days.
I just believe that the NBA has, as you well know, a tremendous amount of money. These are men who played in the very early days. These are men who sacrificed a great deal. I'm sure it was a tremendous experience and they enjoyed very much playing professional basketball. But they built something that is a fantastic success today. There is really no reason why the NBA and the Players Association can't give up a little bit to make the lives of these individuals a great deal better. And I just hope that we can move this resolution to the House floor eventually, and get an affirmative vote on it, and hopefully the PR that this resolution can generate would motivate Commissioner Stern and anybody else connected with professional basketball to give these men their just dues. And once again, Harris, I thank you very much for holding this hearing.
Chairman Fawell. I thank the gentleman from Illinois. Now the Chair would recognize Mr. Cass Ballenger from the great State of North Carolina.
Mr. Ballenger. Let me recognize you guys. We're all about the same age. And I wasn't very good at basketball, but I can remember just sitting here looking at you. John, you look like you might be over 6' 4'' or something like that. But they didn't grow them very tall back then. As I remember how tall you are, Walt? I remember you.
Mr. Budko. Oh, do you?
Mr. Ballenger. Yes.
Mr. Budko. Remind me to send you an 8'' by 10'' glossy.
Mr. Ballenger. No, actually, I went to Amherst when you were playing.
Mr. Budko. All right. I used to be six foot six and a half. I am not that any longer. I am about six four and a half probably.
Mr. Ballenger. Right. Well, did any of you play with Bones McKinney?
Mr. Budko. Yes. Bones and I played for Washington back when I played for the Bullets. And Bones and I played pretty much the same position. We were both considered sort of big forwards. He was a skinny big forward. And I think, and I don't know if I mentioned it in Neil's book, but Bones was the most delightful guy to play basketball with, because we had a running conversation. And most of the time, he tried to convert me to being a Baptist, I think. But that was Bones' operation there. He was a fine player, and just a lot of fun to be with.
Mr. Ballenger. Well, I've been a friend for years. And I was sorry when he passed.
Let me ask you a question, just a little bit about the funding. If you're in basketball now, you take a certain period of time to vest where you own a complete period of time.
Mr. Budko. Pension?
Mr. Ballenger. Pension.
Mr. Tosheff. Yes, you can. After three years, you qualify.
Mr. Ballenger. You qualify, but does that mean you qualify for the whole pension?
Mr. Tosheff. No, if you played ten years, and you now get $285 a month for every year you played. So you'd be getting $2,850 a month.
Mr. Ballenger. Oh, it varies that way?
Mr. Tosheff. Yes. And if you quit at age 55 like Oscar Robertson did, and I think he's sorry he did now, then he could take his whole lump sum money at age 55 and do whatever he wants with it.
Mr. Ballenger. That monthly draw you're talking about is after 65?
Mr. Tosheff. It starts at 62.
Mr. Ballenger. 62.
Mr. Tosheff. Yes, it's vested as an annuity with the Prudential, so the money's making money. So, if the interest is on $111 million, it was $103 million in 1997. It's $111 million today, so that tells you it's making some money.
Mr. Ballenger. One thing that I was wondering about is, I live in North Carolina, and the Charlotte Hornets are something brand new. I'm sure the guys are not starving to death, but if you would try and start to pay the penalty, would a basketball team that's only been in it four or five years pay the same amount of percentage, or whatever you want to call it, as somebody that had been in 20, 30 years?
Mr. Tosheff. Well, are you saying? Would you please repeat that?
Mr. Ballenger. Okay, the Charlotte Hornets have been in existence about five or six years.
Mr. Tosheff. Yes, I know.
Mr. Ballenger. And they would have to pay a certain amount. Would they pay the same amount as somebody that had been in existence for 20 or 30 years?
Mr. Tosheff. Yes, I think so.
Mr. Ballenger. One percent of whatever?
Mr. Tosheff. I don't know what percentage. But I think you're asking if each team is proportionally cut and have to pay. Is that what you're saying? Yes, I believe that is and it comes out of the revenues. They're claiming now, as I read in the newspaper, that David Stern is saying 14 teams are in financial trouble. And then, a person who is a professional in economics says that's not true. There are four teams that are in trouble. And then he says it's possibly zero teams. But alluding to this Charlotte situation, you have a man who's running your team by the name of Dave Cowans. And let me quote what David Cowans said on ESPN in 1997, and I think you'll understand why I'm a little bit upset. He is part of an Association called EXNBA, the retired players association. He's on their board of directors. And he said, when he was interviewed, this is talking about the inclusion of 1998, of the new pension. He said, "we accomplished our goals. We didn't start out to say we wanted to make everything equal. We say we've got to deal with what we have to deal, and be real about it.'' Now, I'm still trying to figure out what that means. Because it means nothing to me. But David Cowans played in the 1970's for the Celtics, Hall of Fame, but on this board of EXNBA, they haven't reached down and helped us, and they're guys that we played with and against. And so, I'm a little bit disappointed in that. But maybe something will change.
Mr. Ballenger. I was wishing before, as you mentioned, having been on TV two or three times and getting your story across, I hope we got some reporters here that will write this story up. Quite often, we have TV cameras here that might have done you a real favor, because I think in reality, we can bring it to the floor and vote on it, but the more you can make a story out of it, the more the American people recognize. Basketball makes money because people are interested in watching the game. If the game gets a kind of ugly look to it, it won't make as much money. And I think those people, Mr. Stern being one of them, would recognize that fact.
Mr. Tosheff. Well, he's just tough to deal with. And I think it's just you don't push him.
Mr. Ballenger. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Fawell. Well, I thank you, Mr. Ballenger. And my thanks to the four of you who have taken the time to come here to Washington and tell your story. That is appreciated. There are no violations of law that I could ascertain, nor do you believe that to be the case either. It's a moral story that you have to tell, and you're facing an awful lot of multi-millionaires there who don't seem to be that concerned. But I think that you're going at it the right way. And I know we've, I've, certainly learned a bit by what you have to tell us. I was unaware completely before Mr. Lipinski appraised me of your plight, of all that you folks are facing. So the best of luck to you. And we'll see where this legislation may be going on the floor of the Congress.
Mr. Isaacs. May I add something, Mr. Chairman, triggered by what Mr. Ballenger said. It seems to me that the NBA's absence from these proceedings is an indication of how little attention they would like paid to this issue. When the LA Times ran a story on it, it was headlined the NBA's Dirty Little Secret. Well, it is little in terms of the amount it would cost them to provide some equity, equitable treatment for these older players. As far as the Players Association not being here. I think for most of the players, there is ignorance about the facts of the case. I don't think it's that they don't care. I don't think they really know about it. Some of the players who do know about it are supportive of this movement. Whether the Association itself or the Players Association itself will take a more active role in their collective bargaining discussions, that I hope will begin to take place soon to end this lock out. If they are aware of it, or made aware of it, perhaps they will take a stronger stand and include what I hope will be the end to this dirty little secret.
Chairman Fawell. Well, perhaps you may be able to interest some of them in big, big stars in professional basketball to say a few kind words on your behalf, too. Because the leadership of some of the very big people, and maybe the biggest person of all in professional basketball, a kind word perhaps could bring a lot of light and heat.
Mr. Tosheff. Chairman Fawell, if you don't mind for one second. On July 4, I mentioned that I was on CNN. And, for the first time, two players were interviewed: Greg Anthony from the Seattle Supersonics, and Ray Allan from the Milwaukee Bucks. And they're both Black players, young men, and both stated, especially Greg, that history is very important to them, because he realized the sweat, blood, and tears that was provided to help get them to where they are today. And they're totally in our favor. I think that's good because young guys like this who kind of look up to their older peers does have an effect with the Players Association in particular. And I think Pat Ewing is very aware of that. And I think why those other guys, meaning Cousy and those people, didn't take care of us but now they're coming to us, meaning the Players Association. And they're saying yes, we're doing well, extremely well, and we should help them.
So I think the general feeling, and I've always had an open door policy with the Players Association. They've always answered my phone calls, and I bug them all the time. But I think there's a feeling, but I hope they use us as a bargaining chip in their collective bargaining hearings, which probably will be over about the fall, because they've got to play basketball, because there's too much money out there.
Chairman Fawell. All right. Again, thank you very much. The meeting is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 3:10 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]