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Labor Issues & The NBA Lockout: A Critical Perspective

With the NBA season in jeopardy, it isn’t about “sucking it up” or “getting it done at any cost” – it’s about what’s fair.

I’ve been meaning to touch on this issue for awhile. And, now, with the entire NBA season on the brink of cancellation, I have to say something.

As the latest news of the negotiations between the NBA and the NBPA keep coming, it seems that neither side is completely unified, nor are both sides any closer to reaching a deal, leaving them at a stalemate. NBA Commissioner David Stern has asserted that an 82-game regular season is impossible, and the best anyone can hope for is an abbreviated season (similar to what we saw in 1999).

The standoff comes down to Basketball-Related Income (BRI) and competitive balance – the owners are demanding for a bigger share of the revenues, as well as a hard salary cap; the latter of which would allow teams to cut anyone but their franchise players in order to stay under the cap.

While the players had conceded to drop their share from 57% to 52.5%, the owners want more, not budging from a 50-50 split, to which a growing number of owners are against. Bobcats owner and former NBA legend Michael Jordan wants the players to have a revenue split of no more than 47%.

Now, those who have read this blog know that I am a Kings fan. And, considering the multitude of issues surrounding this team, as well as the uncertainty that they will even be playing in Sacramento in the near future, I am especially concerned about the lockout. After all, if an entire season is cancelled, what does it mean for the Kings? Will the Maloofs wait a full year longer to give Sacramento the season they promised? Or will they pick up and move to Anaheim, without giving the city a chance to prove it a viable market?

With these questions looming over the heads of the franchise, you would think that, as a Kings fan, I would be all for the owners winning out (like Sacramento Bee columnist, and a sports writer I happen to admire, Marcos Breton, suggests here), and any kind of season taking place.

However, if you followed my issues with the NFL lockout, then you probably already know my stance on this, but let me restate it, just to be clear:

On principle, I cannot side with the owners. I cannot support a group of people who are trying to solve their money problems by taking it out of the pockets of the people who work for them. In their latest proposal, owners were demanding that the players take 10% less than what the previous CBA allowed them to take. And it wasn’t like the previous CBA was signed with a gun to the owners’ heads – they willingly agreed to it six years ago.

This is why it baffles me to see the general populace turn on the players like this – “If you can’t accept millions of dollars, fine! Go to Europe and play!” is the general outcry. It’s eerily similar to the general reaction to NFL players just earlier this year. In a time of recession, it is difficult – if not near-impossible – to side with a labor force that makes more than a large majority of the American population.

But, then again, it is still a labor force. And, ultimately, this is a labor issue – one, no less, in which the owners not only want more power than they already have, but do it at the expense of the people who work for them.

Perhaps Tom Ziller of “Sactown Royalty” can say it better than I can:

Labor issues are labor issues, whether it is teachers or government accountants or basketball players. There are degrees and differing narratives and, yes, issues of context and scale. The NBA lockout is not just the Wisconsin public labor battle writ large: they are different beasts. But at their core, labor battles are about the struggle for fairness in employment [… and] NBA owners are trying to shove Draconian pay cuts down the throats of the players.

Because of this, how could I side with the owners – people who, while not getting a majority of the revenues and BRI, still have the power to do what they will with players, all in the name of business? People who, while shouting at the sky that they are losing money, are willing to lose even more by holding out their labor force in the hopes that it will break the players’ backs?

If you can, and all you want is NBA basketball, then more power to you. As for me, I just can’t do it. Until a fair agreement is reached, let the lockout continue.

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  1. The Seattle Debacle & The NFL: A Critical Perspective « The Macho Sports Report

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