Basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell has weighed in on the the ongoing dispute between the NBA's players and owners, and the Celtics legend thinks both sides would do well to ignore the "hard-liners" and meet somewhere in the middle.
"As a very interested bystander, I just hope they get a deal," Russell said in a story published Thursday by CBSSports.com. "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 is one of the founding fathers of the players union, having been on of the 20 All-Stars who refused to play in the 1964 All-Star Game if the owners did not recognize the collective bargaining powers of the newly created union. Rusell also expressed support for commissioner David Stern and disputed claims by union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler that the owners were treating players like "plantation workers." Kessler has since publicly apologized for those remarks.
"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.
"I think that's an invalid accusation," Russell said of the plantation worker comments. "I think the whole deal is not about black and white. It's about money, OK? I don't see any signs of being greedy. It's a typical negotiation and that's all it is. And there are a couple of reasons it's difficult, because there's hard-liners on both sides.
"But to me, the name-calling or vilifying the other side is a non-issue," Russell said. "All that is is a distraction -- a distraction from the task at hand, which is reaching an agreement that neither side will probably be completely happy with. But that's the art of compromise."
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