Sources: Refs reject offer in 3-2 vote

Updated: September 28, 2009, 9:42 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN

The NBA made another offer to its locked-out referees last Friday, and the refs' lead negotiator removed himself from the talks Monday after that offer was narrowly voted down by the union's executive board, ESPN.com has learned.

The latest offer from the league was made Friday at a previously undisclosed bargaining session in Philadelphia.

Sources familiar with the discussions said the union's five-man executive board met Sunday in Washington and turned down the proposal in a 3-2 vote, leading to the announcement Monday of the departure of lead negotiator Lamell McMorris from the talks.

McMorris released a statement saying the negotiations with the NBA would be handled by general counsel Brian Lam and the executive board of the National Basketball Referees Association. McMorris said his departure was "in the best interest of the NBA Referees and the league." He did not comment beyond his statement, and an NBA spokesman declined comment.

The contract between the league and its officials expired Sept. 1. The NBA held referees' training camp with replacements over the weekend, and three of those officials could be on the court when preseason play begins Thursday with Denver's game at Utah.

One source told ESPN.com that the NBA made concessions Friday in two of the three areas in which the sides have been unable to reach agreement -- severance payments for referees who retire, and the number of game assignments that would be given to officials from the D-League and the WNBA.

But there was no budging from the NBA on a proposed change to the referees' pension plan, and the executive board of Steve Javie, Bob Delaney, Joey Crawford, Bill Spooner and Bennett Salvatore voted it down 3-2.

NBA commissioner David Stern already took himself out of the negotiations earlier this month following McMorris' criticism of his behavior after he abruptly ended a meeting at league headquarters in New York.

Further negotiations with the NBA were held over the phone 10 days ago when the referees met outside Chicago, but the league's offer was turned down in a 57-0 vote. The NBA then announced the lockout, saying it was prepared to use replacement officials for the first time since early in the 1995-96 season.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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