Admitting the 1998-99 season likely will not start on time, the NBA said Monday it will offer refunds plus interest to season-ticket holders for all teams if any games are canceled.
The announcement came four days after a collective bargaining session between NBA owners and locked-out players broke up on an acrimonious note, with the sides far apart and firmly entrenched in their positions. The NBA is the only major pro sports league that never has lost a game to a work stoppage.
"Regrettably, after last week's negotiating session there seems to be a greater likelihood that the season may not start on time," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said in a statement.
"Season-ticket holders make substantial financial commitments to our teams and we think they should be treated fairly in the unfortunate event that games are missed," Granik added. "A refund policy that includes interest is the right thing to do in this circumstance."
According to the NBA, interest for refunds will be calculated at 6 percent from the time full payment for season tickets was due, or the actual date of final payment. Many NBA teams allow season ticket holders to make a series of payments.
Those holding individual game tickets for canceled games will receive cash refunds or a "rain check" given by the teams.
The 1998-99 season starts Nov. 3 with 10 games. Although that is more than two months away, Thursday's session concluded with the sides pointing fingers at each other. The NBA called the tone of the union's counterproposal "insulting" and walked out of the meeting, which players called "a slap in the face."
NBA owners voted 27-2 in March to re-open the agreement and locked out players on July 1. The NBA Players Association filed a grievance, requesting guaranteed contracts of players be paid during the lockout.
Causing the rift is the Larry Bird Exception, which allows teams to exceed the salary cap to re-sign their own free agents. The NBA would like to phase out the exception, which would create a "hard" salary cap. The players want to keep the excepion.
There was a lockout prior to the 1995-96 season that postponed summer leagues and delayed free-agent signings, but no games were missed. There was another lockout lasting just minutes in the summer of 1996.
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