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Author Topic: FIBA cracking down on teams not respecting contracts.  (Read 3828 times)
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« on: February 08, 2011, 05:48:38 pm »


Receiving a late paycheck is an accepted reality for many American basketball players working overseas.

For the former N.B.A. player Lonny Baxter, when Besiktas ColaTurka Istanbul, his Turkish team for the 2009-10 season, owed him $120,000 after not paying him for three months, he did not take it lightly.

Baxter, 32, knew that Besiktas would be late for some payments, but, he said, “I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was once I got there.”

So Baxter and his agents exercised an arbitration clause that has helped several American players resolve labor disputes in foreign countries. The F.A.T. clause, which stands for FIBA Arbitral Tribunal, is a voluntary legal proceeding that agents are now demanding to have included in their players’ contracts with international teams.

“Clubs tend to not respect the contracts they make,” said Dirk-Reiner Martens, a longtime legal adviser to FIBA, which oversees international basketball.

Since it began in 2007, the tribunal has heard more than 155 cases, 50 of them involving American basketball players and teams based in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Martens said most cases were filed by players, though teams have also used F.A.T. against players who have failed to honor their contracts.

“This is not a court which is designed to help players; it is a court designed to help both sides to see the contracts respected,” Martens said.

Each case is reviewed by one of seven arbitrators, who include lawyers from Zurich and London as well as Theodore R. Boehm, a retired Indiana Supreme Court justice. He bases his decision on the principle of ex aequo et bono, or “from equity and conscience,” not on a country’s laws. This allows for flexibility in each case, said Benjamin Cohen, the legal affairs manager for FIBA.

“He’s free to decide based on the submissions of the parties,” Cohen said in a telephone interview from his office in Geneva.

During the F.A.T. proceedings for Baxter, who now plays for the Siberian team Enisey Krasnoyarsk, Besiktas acknowledged that payments were late, citing “cash flow inconveniences,” according to the F.A.T. award. It also argued that Baxter owed the team money for damaging a car that was loaned to him and for $27,348.28 in fines, including $1,500 for swearing at a referee and $9,000 for criticizing his coach and teammates.

The settlement took some of Baxter’s disciplinary fines into account, and Baxter was eventually awarded $181,151.72. Besiktas settled the F.A.T. award only weeks before it signed the former N.B.A. All-Star Allen Iverson to a two-year, $4 million deal in October.

Other players are not repaid as quickly. The former Maryland player D. J. Strawberry was owed more than $250,000 by the Italian team Fortitudo Pallacanestro Bologna before a knee injury ended his season. An F.A.T. arbitrator awarded him $272,583.27 and interest in September. But Fortitudo, which is thought to be almost $11 million in debt, is not playing in Italy’s professional Serie A this season. Rade Filipovich, the president of BDA Sports International and Strawberry’s agent at the time, said his agency had no option but to wait until Fortitudo returned to Serie A in order to reclaim Strawberry’s money.

“As soon as they get to the professional level, FIBA is going to use the power to enforce this,” Filipovich said from his office in Redondo Beach, Calif.

FIBA’s involvement in F.A.T. is intentionally minimal. It can sanction a team or player only for failing to honor an F.A.T. award.

“FIBA tends to not impose monetary sanctions on a club facing financial difficulties, as this would only make things worse,” Cohen said.

Teams that fail to honor an F.A.T. award are instead prohibited from signing new players. Players who do not honor awards cannot join new teams.

The tribunal recently said it would change its name to B.A.T., for Basketball Arbitral Tribunal, to further demonstrate its independence from FIBA, Martens said. The change will also spare Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, a Geneva-based lawyer, the unflattering distinction of being referred to as the F.A.T. president.

“She’s a very nice lady, so everyone feels embarrassed,” Cohen said.

Agents concede that having an F.A.T. clause is better than turning to local courts, where settling a labor dispute can last years, compared with three to five months under F.A.T., said Brad Ames, an agent for Priority Sports Management in Chicago who represents Baxter. Ames has spent nine years fighting the French team SLUC Nancy in a French court for more than $150,000 he says is owed the former Chicago Bull Cory Carr.

Before F.A.T., if a player was injured while playing overseas, he would often be cut and not paid. The N.B.A. Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins spent the 1997-98 season with Fortitudo Bologna. When he injured his elbow, the team told him that he was going to be replaced.

“I said, ‘You guys owe me money,’ and they said, ‘Well, sue us,’ ” said Wilkins, who had a year left on his contract.

Wilkins estimated that he was still owed $2.5 million.

Today, the F.A.T. clause has given players and their agents leverage when negotiating contracts, said Ames, who estimates that 99 percent of his clients have an F.A.T. clause in their contracts.

“I don’t know if we’ve had a contract in the last two years that doesn’t have it in it,” he said.

Despite its success, the clause will remain voluntary, Martens said. “This is either successful for its own merits or it should die,” he said.

"All teams want to talk about now is length & explosiveness...Are they casting for a porno shoot or to play basketball?"
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2012, 03:47:38 pm »

I dont understand why clubs think they dont have to pay...Its rediculous
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« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2012, 09:07:40 am »

Hey, you posted this on my birthday! Smiley

But I don't understand why they need an arbitral tribunal for that. If the contract says you're paying the player $20,000 at the end of every month, well you just have to do it and if you don't there should be penalities.

Flip is the only poster I trust enough to have added on Facebook haha. he also happens to be a beautiful man
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