NBPA preparing to handle players' licensing in new CBA

NEW ORLEANS -- With a new collective bargaining agreement that National Basketball Players Association head Michele Roberts described as a "fantastic deal" secured in December, the union has turned its attention to the next matter: players' licensing rights.

Roberts said the NBPA will take back licensing rights -- the ability to use players' names, numbers and images in groups of three or more for products and sponsorships -- from the league when the current CBA expires June 30 and that it intends "to control them moving forward."

For the past 20 years, the NBPA has effectively "rented" the licensing rights to the league and shared in the revenue, according to Jordan Schlachter, the NBPA's chief marketing officer.

The union has chosen not to renew the agreement in hopes of having "a lot more control" over the players' likenesses and images, Schlachter said.

"There is still a partnership there," players union president Chris Paul said in regard to the league, "but it's also about understanding where the value is."

Paul, a 12-year veteran, said players are "a lot more educated" about the business side of the league and that licensing rights were vocalized as important by the players in union meetings.

"This has been a directive of the players for a long time -- to explore taking it back," Schlachter said. "We've known for the past couple years that we were going to do it. There was just some details that had to be worked out as part of it."

The NBPA was the only major sports union not in control of its licensing rights, Roberts said.

"We're simply coming of age a little later than our sister unions have," Roberts said.