NBA players' union strikes nutritional supplements deal

Updated: November 17, 2006, 4:13 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NBA Players Association has entered into a one-year deal with a nutritional supplements company providing free products and retail discounts to players, The New York Times reported Friday.

But the deal with Abbott Nutrition -- and the fact that the union reached it without involvement from the NBA -- comes at a time when union president Billy Hunter is objecting to league rules he says are outside the scope of the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the union and that the NBA has enacted without consulting the union.

Hunter told the Times he is frustrated the NBA has not consulted the union on decisions such as its player dress code, its decision to replace its leather game basketball with a composite model and its crackdown on players complaining about calls during games.

"A lot of that has been precipitated by the league, the moves that the commissioner has decided to make and implement -- many we feel are beyond scope of the collective bargaining agreement," Hunter told the Times. "At a minimum, we should have been consulted. As a result, maybe I feel less compelled to consult them on things."

As part of its deal with the union, Abbot Nutrition will supply $5,000 worth of its EAS brand products to all 30 NBA teams, and it is offering players a 50 percent discount on those products, the newspaper reported.

According to the Times, Abbot Nutrition guaranteed that its products contain no substances banned under the NBA's drug policy.

Under the NBA's drug policy, players who test positive for performance-enhancing substances face a suspension of 10 games for a first offense, 25 games for the second offense, a year for the third and a ban for the fourth.

The NBA told the Times it has discussed supplements with the union and would continue to do so. "It has been the N.B.A policy that our players should not take supplements," NBA spokesman Tim Frank told the Times.

Chris Hickey, the marketing director for the EAS brand, told the Times his company did not contact the NBA directory because the union advised the company a direct link was "the best way to facilitate the relationship."

"We did not approach [the NBA] because this is a supplier-ship, versus a sponsorship," he told the newspaper.

"We're not compelling players to use [the products]," Hunter told the Times . "But when we inquired among teams, already many used products. This was a way for them to get it at no cost."

"In times of high stress, when players need all kinds of nutrients, we thought it would be appropriate to make sure they have a safe product," he added.