Report: NBPA warns players of 'Force Majeure' clause permitting owners to cut pay because of coronavirus

The National Basketball Players Association has warned players that their pay could be reduced if the rest of the NBA season is lost amid the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

The letter warned of an already established “Force Majeure” clause in the collective bargaining agreement the spells out teams’ financial obligations to players in times of disaster and allows owners to reduce player salaries.

What is a Force Majeure event?

A “Force Majeure event” refers to an event that “makes it economically impracticable for the NBA to perform its obligations” and is described as the following, per Article XXXIX, section 5(a) of the CBA:

“Wars or war-like action ... sabotage, terrorism or threats of sabotage or terrorism; explosions; epidemics; weather or natural disasters, including, but not limited to, fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornados, storms or earthquakes; and any governmental order or action (civil or military).”

The NBPA reminded players of a clause allowing owners to reduce salaries if games are canceled in times of disaster. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

How much could players lose?

The clause states that every game lost to the “Force Majeure Period” would result in a salary reduction of “1/92.6th of the player’s Compensation for the Season(s).”

Yahoo Sports’ Henry Bushnell ran the numbers on Thursday, using Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul and his $38.5 million salary as an example. If the Thunder game against the Utah Jazz that was postponed on Wednesday is never played, Paul’s salary could be reduced to $38.1 million. If the rest of the season is canceled, his salary could be reduced to $28.7 million.

Paul’s salary lands on the high end of the player scale and would be reduced by $9.4 million.

Owners have not indicated they would cut salaries

The NBA has given no indication that owners intend to enact the “Force Majeure” clause. Wojnarowski reports that the league and the NBPA have not had discussions about triggering the provision as the league holds out hope that it will be able to resume and complete the season.

Players are scheduled to be paid on Sunday, and they will be paid in full, according to Wojnarowski.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote a letter to NBA fans on Thursday explaining that the league won’t resume play for at least 30 days. He told TNT earlier Thursday that he envisions a scenario where the league resumes in six weeks and plays the NBA Finals in July.

He also acknowledged that the rest of the season could be canceled entirely due to the unknowns with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course it’s possible,” Silver said. “I just don’t know more at this point.”

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