The NBA Lockout Just Got Very Real

By now, you've probably all heard that the first two weeks of the NBA's regular season have been wiped out by the current lockout. And let's not kid ourselves - this has only just begun. The two sides are still farther apart than they were in 1999, when the season didn't start until mid-to-late January, and David Stern isn't making it seem like we can even hope for that kind of "good" result from this lockout:

"Well, our economic situation gets worse, and we have to begin accounting for that"

That statement absolutely makes sense at first glance. But thinking about it, the league really dug itself a pretty deep hole here, and while it will hurt the players more in the short term, the league itself will likely suffer a crippling blow to its finances. For all the talk of BRI percentages and fancy accounting, and players legitimately making too much money, people don't care about that. The public just wants to watch basketball. But reality is about to catch up to everyone else too.

The players are going to start feeling the pinch soon, but for all their talk of solidarity, they don't seem to understand just how bad of a position they're in. The longer this drags on, the more disgusted the public will be with the NBA, and the more the league's image will suffer. Sure, that means the players will be offered less money, but the owners aren't getting a good deal there either. People will be less inclined to care when the NBA comes back, and losing hundreds of millions(perhaps even billions) of dollars just to try to force the players into taking even bigger paycuts than the ones they've already agreed to shows a lack of business acumen and a bizarre need to stroke their collective egos. All the while, those of us who are neither millionaires nor billionaires are the ones who lose the most, but we don't have a place at the negotiating table.

And that's the real problem. The owners and the players could not care less about the rest of us, and it shows.

I will not use this space to criticize Peter Holt - he's there to represent the majority interests of the owners, not necessarily his own. And I'm not calling out the owners in general, since there are already plenty of much better writers doing just that already, and because they actually started to lessen their demands recently. On top of that, I really don't care any more. Instead, I'll just say that these are strange days, when I catch myself agreeing with just about everything my Laker-fan co-workers have been saying about the NBA. So, this message is to all parties involved:

Swallow your pride. And your greed. All of You.

I've laid plenty of blame on the owners in previous posts, but it's high time that both sides stopped the rhetoric and realized the actual economic consequences of the situation they're getting themselves into by not resolving this quickly enough to save the full season. With the proposals that have been leaked out, both sides would have done well to accept the other's best offer made in recent weeks.

For the players, the damage would be immediate: missed paychecks. In fact, thanks to Larry Coon, we can tell that the players missing out on two weeks of the season(which has already happened now) almost wipes out the entire difference between the union's best offer and the league's best offer. Now, of course, they would stand to make a lot of that up in later seasons, since a CBA usually runs for 6 years.  :But public opinion among those who don't follow this lockout closely is clearly against the players. When people think that you're on strike, holding out for more money, even though you've already offered huge concessions from the current deal but been locked out, you're absolutely terrible at public relations. You've already lost, now it's a matter of how big this loss is going to be. At this point, it's better to take the losses and move on. Yes, it's actually a very demanding job with long hours, but you get compensated far better than about 99% of the rest of us. And with Stern's threats promises that the offers are only going to get worse from here on out, it would seem that the players run the very clear risk of losing even bigger the longer this plays out.

Which leads us to the reason why those offers from the league will be worse for the players as time rolls on...

The longer the owners keep the players locked out, the more damage it does to the NBA brand. Even though we Spurs fans have fond memories of the 1999 season, the game's domestic popularity(and therefore its TV ratings, ticket sales, and merchandise sales) were all set back dramatically because of half the season being lost. These small-market owners think they have it bad now? Just wait until the public in small cities with other sports choices(Charlotte, Indiana, Cleveland, etc) desert them. If there's one thing that turns the American public off these days, it's greed. When they won't let any independent or union auditors look at their financial books, the players and media have every right to suspect that the claimed losses are a phony accounting device used to justify their greed. And using the cost of buying a team as financial losses doesn't really help their cause either, especially when teams are selling at astronomical prices compared to just a decade ago. The numbers just don't add up.

And finally, we come to the biggest reason why both sides of this argument need to shut up and end this now: The people that are losing the biggest during a lockout far outnumber both the players and owners, but have no say in this battle. Nobody's fighting for the rights or needs of the stadium workers and small businesses that depend on the NBA for their livelihoods. My partner's uncle works at Staples Center doing concessions. It's a crappy job for crappy pay, but he's at least been able to scrape by for the past 10 years, since the busy season is very busy at Staples. But not this time. This time around, only the (hockey) Kings' home games are available for him to work. I just had to loan him money so that his landlord didn't throw him, his wife and kids out on the street. He doesn't qualify for unemployment(because of the aforementioned LA Kings games), but nobody is representing his interests at these talks. And he's just one of almost 200 arena staff at Staples - multiply that by the 28 cities the NBA has a foothold in, and you get an idea of how far-reaching this is.

The players and owners can afford the posturing and rhetoric for a while, but all the other people that depend on the NBA for their livelihoods can't. Nobody is fighting for the ordinary people that are struggling to survive this. It's just a bunch of greedy, rich athletes and greedy, super-rich team owners fighting over hundreds of millions of dollars while everyone else suffers. When the dust clears, that's all anybody will remember about this lockout.

Prolonging this staring contest any further doesn't do any good for anybody, but it does very real harm to all parties involved. End it now, while you can still minimize the damage.

/rant

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