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The head of the embattled NBA players union is optimistic that a series of meetings with the membership is helping in the fight to win endorsement of its contract with the league.

"I believe as these meetings continue, the groundswell of support for the agreement and our union will continue to grow," the National Basketball Players Association executive director Simon Gourdine said Saturday. "The meetings we have had so far have been good, vigorous discussions that I think have really helped explain the details of our new agreement."The first three days of meetings being conducted by two-man teams in 18 cities ended Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. To date, the teams have met with 50 players in seven cities to explain the six-year collective bargain agreement reached Aug. 8.

The meetings will continue through Aug. 28. Players will decide on two voting days - Aug. 30 and Sept. 7 - whether to accept the contract or to dissolve their union and go through the federal courts to end the owners' lockout and get a better deal.

More than 400 eligible players can cast ballots either day at regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board. A simple majority will decide both the fate of the union and the revised labor pact, and results will be announced Sept. 12.

A group of players led by Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing want to decertify the union.

"We consider decertification to be a referendum on the agreement," Gourdine said earlier in the week. "The issue of decertification is critically linked to whether or not this agreement is something the players want.

"If they vote to decertify, they are implicitly rejecting the contract and want to proceed along the antitrust route. Conversely, if they vote against the decertification, they are saying they are approving of what the union has done and approving of this contract."

Owners have to ratify the agreement as well, after players vote.

The NLRB called the election last month after approximately 200 dissident players signed petitions saying they no longer wished to be represented by the union.