NBA bans use of wearable device data in contract negotiations

By Heather Mack

How data gleaned from elite athletes’ wearables devices can be made profitable is still a largely unanswered question. But in the NBA, it's now been made clear one way that won't happen.

As SportTechie reports, the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement specifically bans teams from using wearable data in contract negotiations or player transactions. While teams can use the data to monitor player health and performance and thereby adjust training or rest schedules, using that data to leverage any other decision-making is strictly out of bounds. 

“The data may not be considered, used, discussed or referenced for any other purpose such as in negotiations regarding a future Player Contract or other Player Contract transaction (e.g., a trade or waiver) involving the player,” the CBA states, adding if someone is caught doing just that, a designated grievance arbitrator will have the authority to impose a fine of up to $250,000.

The whole conversation over what to do with wearables started when teams started taking heat for frequently resting some of NBA’s most valuable players during scheduled games, irking fans and sponsors. Teams aren’t allowed to wear devices during games, but they regularly don them during workouts. The idea came up that data from wearables could also help coaches track exertion levels during the game and manage players more efficiently. Inevitably, it was suggested that data be used in contract negotions.

While the CBA doesn’t want to let wearable data play in discussions over contract negotions or player transations for now, it is open to the concept of their eventual use in games and potential commercialization. In December, it was announced that a new committee was in the works to reassess the value of and role wearables may play in the sport. The new committee – which will be made up of league officials and players’ union representatives – will decide if any devices will eventually be allowed during games, what data they will track, and how that data will be used. And, of course, whether there is a possibility of making money off that data.