Bill Russell Critical of ‘Hard-Liners’ in NBA Labor Dispute

by November 10, 2011

Bill Russell is no fan of hardliners — be they owners, union members, or players themselves — in this ongoing NBA lockout mess. He tells CBS Sports that he hopes reason eventually prevails: “As a very interested bystander, I just hope they get a deal,’ [Hall of Famer Bill Russell said]. ‘And it will not come from the hard-liners on either side. I think they all know that. I have this theory that hard-liners are like true believers. And true believers think that any compromise is a retreat. And moving forward, that doesn’t cut it.’ Russell’s words carry weight – and not just because he is the most decorated champion in NBA history. The former Celtics’ star was among a group of 20 All-Stars who threatened to boycott the 1964 All-Star Game in Boston unless the NBA recognized the newly formed players’ union. ‘Basically I was one of those guys that helped get the players’ association started,’ Russell said. ‘And they’ve done wonderful things. I knew David Stern before he was commissioner, when he was associate attorney for the NBA. And if I remember correctly, he said, ‘I do not consider the players’ association my adversaries. They’re my business partners.’ ‘That’s where, a lot of the things that David has done — and I’ve known him up close — have been beneficial for both sides,’ Russell said … Russell said both sides ‘have their points,’ but he views the key stumbling blocks as owners as trying to ‘protect themselves from the owners’ and a battle between ‘the small-market teams and the big-market teams. The players want their fair share of the business and the small-market owners don’t want to keep losing money,’ Russell said. Russell said he hasn’t kept up with the details of the negotiation, but cautioned both sides that there’s ‘more to the agreement than just money.'”