Heat owner Arison cast ‘protest vote’ against CBA

Posted Dec. 22, 2011, at 9:52 p.m.

MIAMI — Miami Heat owner Micky Arison revealed Thursday that he voted against ratifying the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, saying that ballot was cast as a protest of how revenue sharing is expected to work in the deal.

Arison is the second owner to publicly disclose that he voted against the CBA, joining Dallas’ Mark Cuban.

The NBA’s Board of Governors approved passage 25-5, and Arison’s “no” vote came after it was already assured that the deal would go through and the league would be back in business. In an interview with six Heat beat writers, Arison would say that he would vote the same way if the outcome was hanging in the balance.

“While I did everything I could behind the scenes, and some not so behind the scenes, to get playing by Christmas, when you come down to it, financially … it’s a tough financial deal for us,” Arison said. “Particularly the revenue-sharing piece of it, the way it’s structured. For us to have to pay revenue sharing to larger-market teams was disturbing. And we will. So that was a kind of protest vote.”

Arison’s announcement came tinged with one major caveat: He wanted a deal, and fought for a long time to get one. Miami, which lost last season’s NBA finals to Dallas, enters this season as the prohibitive favorite to win the 2012 championship. NBA rules prohibited Arison from having virtually any contact with players during the lockout, but he said he felt they understood he wanted a deal.

Turns out, just not this particular deal. Or, more specifically, not the revenue-sharing aspect of this particular deal, even while acknowledging that it was help level the playing field in the NBA.

“I did everything I could, from both the owners’ side and the players’ side to get a deal done as quick as possible and to miss as few games as possible,” Arison said. “So you’ve got to connect that with the ‘no’ vote.”

The Heat made money last season for the first time in at least a decade, riding the boost that came from the first year of having LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the same team. But the new deal will eventually have a punitive salary cap and revenue sharing designed to help the so-called “small market” teams.

In short, revenue sharing figures to hit Miami hard, even though Arison said he believes his “big market” club actually has a smaller market than Minnesota.

“While the original intent of the owners was to have a hard cap, which would have basically leveled the playing field, instead because of players’ refusal to accept that they just made it extremely expensive,” Arison said. “So now you have to financially deal with how expensive that is.”

For nearly two years of negotiating, owners wanted things like a hard salary cap, the elimination of guaranteed contracts, rollbacks of current salaries and a massive reduction in the players’ share of basketball-related income. After locking out players on July 1, it took nearly five more months to reach an agreement.

And there was a sense that some clubs wanted a deal that would essentially break up the Heat, or at least the pairing of James, Wade and Bosh. Arison said the Heat never thought that would be necessary.

“Obviously, I wanted to see a negotiation that led to something that we could have kept the team together,” Arison said. “And it did. The fact is they made it expensive, but we can keep them together.

In a revealing 33-minute session with reporters, Arison said his relationship with owners around the league has included “some resentment” since Bosh and James decided in July 2010 to play with Miami. His cell phone rang once during the interview — “That was LeBron,” Arison said, laughing, after ending the call — and he also insisted that voting against the deal will not inhibit Miami’s ability to do business around the league.

He also said that it was easier for him to get over the Heat losing the finals than it was to deal with losing a series of playoff heartbreakers to the New York Knicks.

However, what’s most important to him when it comes to the NBA right now, he said, is that the league is playing again. Miami opens in Dallas on Sunday, plays its home opener against Boston on Tuesday, and then Arison, who also is the chairman and CEO of Carnival Corp. will leave for — what else? — a cruise vacation.

“As a league, financially we’re better off,” Arison added. “Not as a team, but as a league. And players, financially, will be well off as well and will be the highest-paid athletes going forward like they have been in the recent past. So I think while it was a loss-loss for everybody to lose the beginning of the season and have the problems we had, it was a win-win to get going by Christmas Day.”

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