|Friday, April 6
Updated: April 27, 3:15 AM ET
A Fine predicament for NBA?
By Darren Rovell
No player in the NBA is better at getting fined than Rasheed Wallace. The NBA, however, isn't very keen about explaining where that money goes.
Wallace, the Portland Trail Blazers' much-whistled forward, has been hit with a league-record 41 technical fouls so far this season. At $500 a "T," that comes to $20,500. Throw in another $30,000 in fines for various violations of league policy and $280,000 in lost salary from his two-game suspension, and "various NBA charities" should soon become flush with some $330,500, thanks to Wallace.
NBA officials do not publicize the identities of charitable organizations that receive money collected from league fines and lost salary (players are charged 1/90th of their salary for each missed game). That total -- plucked from the pocketbooks of players, coaches, owners and even game officials -- has now surpassed $8 million, prior to appeal.
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), per the league's collective bargaining agreement, equally split fines paid by players, then donate the respective shares to the charities of their choice. Only the NBPA has to approve of the NBA charities, and not vice-versa, according to Dan Wasserman, spokesman for the players' association.
But Wasserman told ESPN.com that he's "not so sure that (the player's association) has been served with any formal notice over the last couple years" and that "it might be something that we ask them for this time around after the season."
Stu Jackson, the NBA's vice president of operations, declined to answer questions concerning the league's procedures on distributing player fines. NBA spokesman Seth Sylvan maintains the league does give the money to charity, but he would not specify which charities benefit from the league's donations.
Wasserman said the player's association donates its share to various youth foundations.
Unlike the NBA, the other three major professional leagues announce where the money collected from player fines go.
But outside the NBA's New York headquarters, it remains a mystery which charities benefit when the league hands down a fine.
Two high-ranking team executives, who asked not to be identified, said they assumed that money from player fines went to charity, but that they have never been made aware of the specifics.
"I don't know who the NBA gives the money to, but I would love to know," said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has accumulated $505,000 in fines this season, the bulk of it for remarks to or about game officials.
Ironically, it was Cuban who sent a league-wide email last week encouraging the NBA to keep the fines private.
"I think the NBA has the right to and should keep all its disciplinary actions private. No different (than) ESPN keeps its disciplinary actions private," Cuban said Monday. "But it's just like the NBA to send a press release announcing I have been fined, but not to announce the positive part of the message, that the money I have been fined is going to charity. That's NBA Marketing 101."
It appears that Cuban's fines might not to go to charities.
Fines levied by the NBA against teams, owners and game officials are not shared with the NBPA. According to Sylvan, that money can go directly into the league coffers, since the direction of such fines are not stipulated in the league's constitution or collective bargaining agreement. That's more than $4 million this season, including a $3.5 million fine the league slapped on Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor in late October for circumventing the salary cap with Joe Smith's contract.
The NBA is believed to have collected more than $7 million in fines and lost salary in previous seasons, though a league spokesman refused to confirm the exact amount. One of the most prolific seasons for the league was the 1997-98 season, when Latrell Sprewell alone forked over $6.4 million while serving a 68-game suspension for choking former Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Last season, the NBA fined its players $374,000, as calculated from the league's news releases during the season. That number does not include salary lost for suspensions or fines for technical fouls.
This season, announced player fines could match last season's pace, totaling $337,500. Another $615,000 will be collected from players whistled for some 1,230 technicals so far this season.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org