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NBA passes stricter anti-tampering measures

The National Basketball Association’s Board of Governors on September 20 unanimously passed a new stricter package of provisions aimed at preventing teams from player tampering and circumventing the salary cap. The measures, arriving after a whirlwind offseason free agent market, mark the latest effort by the league to create a more level playing field among teams.

Seeking to create a “culture of compliance,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league office is now armed with a variety of tools that will include increased fines now reaching up to $10 million, random investigatory audits of teams, draft pick revocations, voiding improper contracts, and the ability to confiscate executives’ communications devices if needed. Silver, however, said he will look to avoid the latter step.

“There was, again, a long, involved discussion about what the appropriate tension is that’s necessary to ensure complaince, and that means there needs to be consequences when rules are violated,” Silver said. 

Teams must now keep records of executive talks with players and agents for a year.

Tampering has long been a complaint within league circles as early contact between teams and players prior to the start of annual free agency periods has been an open secret. A series of player deals this past summer were seemingly agreed prior to the start of the NBA’s 2019 free agency period on June 30.

“Our teams want to know that they’re competing on a level playing field and frankly don’t want to feel disadvantage if they are adhering to our existing rules,” Silver said.

With the increased anti-tampering rules, however, Silver acknowledged he is still trying to strike an equilibrium between enforcing the statues and protecting proprietary team data.

“You have to find the right balance of disclosure and privacy so that you can ensure people of goodwill will understand that there will be consequences to inappropriate behavior,” Silver said.

The NBA’s Board of Governors, meanwhile, a rule change mandating that teams must now submit their starting lineups 30 minutes before each game, up from the prior rule of 10 minutes prior to tipoff. Teams retain the ability to make lineup changes in the event of last-minute injuries or other similar factors. But the rule change is designed in part to provide more transparency and a level playing field for information disclosure as legalized sports wagering continues to take hold across the US. 

Major League Baseball in March somewhat similarly mandate that teams submit lineups to the league office 15 minutes before they are publicly announced.