Monday, October 3, 2011

Dear NBA Owners

With a front of players united, how can you guys win?

via Yahoo! Sports:
Before a stunning confrontation between Dwyane Wade and NBA commissioner David Stern in Friday’s labor meeting, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul told their Players Association peers that they’re willing to sit out the season rather than make further concessions to the owners, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Wade, James and Paul were at the forefront of a strong players presence at a Park Avenue hotel for Friday’s contentious bargaining session. In a private union meeting prior to the bargaining session with owners, James kept reiterating to the group of elite players that they shouldn’t give back a greater share of the league’s basketball-related income (BRI) than what they’d already conceded in previous negotiations.

“We’re all together on 53 [percent], right?” James said. “All together on 53 right?”

“LeBron, Wade and Paul want to fight this so hard, they don’t seem scared about missing the season,” one source in the negotiating room told Yahoo! Sports.

James, Wade and Paul believe the owners are bluffing in threatening to ultimately cancel the season to get the changes they want in the collective bargaining agreement, a source in the meeting said. In the meeting with union peers, the three stars declared their willingness to miss games rather than drop down from the 53 percent of BRI the union has proposed to the NBA.

Despite the bold talk out of the sport’s biggest stars, the union privately has expressed a willingness to move further toward ownership this weekend with an understanding that Stern wants desperately to cut a deal with the players and avoid a prolonged work stoppage.

Take a look around, NBA Owners! What do you see on the social landscape these days? I'll give you a second... *plays another game of NBA 2K11* You figure it out yet? ...No? Well, I'll tell you! Social upheaval is on the horizon! Wall Street protestors are trying to make waves against corporate personhood. The GOP is fighting to end government-run social programs in lieu of 'economic austerity'. All over the world, progressive, young citizens are pushing against their conservative governments in the name of social progress. NBA owners, this is the WRONG time to be a non-populist, especially considering how staid the players seem.

As a fan, this season was probably my favorite in recent memory. Not only were the Playoffs exciting and the Finals compelling, the NBA seems poised to birth a new era of stars. Players like John Wall, Blake Griffin, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and many of the draft picks from the past four years are either entering their primes or beginning to show dominance. From a standpoint of gameplay, watching the NBA has never been more exciting.

Owners, look at the business landscape of your league at the moment, as well. The NBA just came off financially, its biggest season in decades according to Business Finance Magazine:
Overall revenues are at the highest they have ever been with gate receipts up significantly and team sponsorship sales at an all time high. We are on pace to have our most-watched season ever on TV. Subscriber growth has increased dramatically on NBA TV to 55 million homes in the U.S. We are experiencing double-digit revenue growth this year both in the digital business and internationally.

However, in order to achieve the revenue growth that we have experienced over the last decade, we have had to spend much more to generate the same $1 of revenue than we had to in decades past. As a result, the league overall has been experiencing significant net losses now, which wasn't the case back in the mid 1990s.
So, revenues are at an all-time high and ratings are through the roof, but you guys still insist that your pockets are losing weight. Of you 30 active owners, over half of you are billionaires. I don't think losing out a few million dollars to keep this season whole will hurt your bottom line. And if you decide to continue to lock the players out, you'll only be losing more money. Kobe Bryant, without an NBA season, can sign a deal anywhere in the world and still do what he loves. Jerry Buss, however, stands to lose a lot more if he doesn't cut the Ebenezer Scrooge act.

It's not that I think the players are lining up for the soup kitchen, either. LeBron, D. Wade, A'mare, Chris Bosh and the rest of last year's free agents are still filing receipts from those paychecks. As a matter of fact, I do think that there should be some sort of regulation on how much money a team can spend, so as to curb the ever-popular trend of going over the salary cap to seize a coup on the free agent market. That said, you guys shouldn't be so uncompromising. You guys aren't even playing! It's not your bodies on the line, and even if your team loses, you'll still be paid (as will the players, for that matter). At the same time, if your team wins, you get to stand on the podium with the team and take credit for something that you had no part in other than writing a check.

Populism and the rights of the workers are about to take on a new level of importance again, owners. The fans, whose hard-earned money you depend upon will support the players because they more easily identify with the blue-collar aesthetic of an athlete, not your big-wig greed. If the players continue to stand firm united against your front of trying to scream 'broke,' there is no way you can win. Why not take a page out of the NFL's book and head to the negotiating table ASAP. I guarantee it will be more constructive for you and the players than a winter full of owners slinging mud and NBA players trying to rap...

Steve Jack, you're my man, but this just can't go on...


jblock49 said...

Great points. The prevailing zeitgeist of today doesn't favor the NBA owners at all. A few notes though:

You mention all the superstar players and how they're fine with sitting out a season while the owners lose out, but you're forgetting the other 98% of players who don't have max-value contracts. With a lockout, they lose. Not all of them are going to be able to find jobs overseas, and for the most part, they're probably not even going to be getting Josh Childress treatment. I bet if Delonte West or Matt Barnes were at the meeting, they'd have something different to say.

I don't really think NBA owners care about not playing games until February. Hardly anyone even pays attention to the NBA while the NFL is in full-swing. Fans could care less too. I'm sure fans with season tickets aren't mad that they're getting their money back for cancelled home games in November. I adopted this view from Bill Simmon's tweets on September 14th—they're definitely worth checking out.

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