Public trust put to test by prolonged NBA lockout
Richard Carter | 10/12/2012, 4:17 p.m.
"It's supply and demand. If the supply is lacking, create it. That's the American way..."--Kurtwood Smith, "Flashpoint" (1984)
When the National Basketball Association's lockout of players ends--hopefully soon--will its overwhelmingly white billionaire owners realize fans pay to see players and not owners? And will its overwhelmingly Black millionaire players realize they're in a professional sport many Americans don't hold in high esteem?
As this is written, the lockout continues, with majority shareowners of the 30 NBA teams--all of whom are white except the Charlotte Bobcats' Michael Jordan--close to forfeiting their hold on rabid and casual fans.
In other words, owners and players are close to killing their golden goose. Thus, for my money, it's way past time for both to wake up and smell the coffee. It's way past time for them to swallow their pride, put aside their differences and go to work--if you can call it that.
In one sense, I support the owners, most of whom--but not all--attained their wealth through years of hard work. In another sense, I support the players, whose lofty financial status is justified by the adulation of millions of people who pay to watch them in person and others who devote hours watching on television.
And yet, despite so many Black players, how many of us wonder why there aren't more Black owners? Does anyone suspect a plantation mentality here?
On the other hand, how many of us feel that what these players do is actually work and not just a game? In fact, many NBA players didn't graduate from college, and if they couldn't play basketball, a lot of them wouldn't be able to get a real job. Think about it.
One of the immediate effects of the continuing lockout is that superstars such as the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the New Jersey Nets' Deron Williams--as well as some lesser lights--have decided to play in Europe until the NBA comes to its senses, which makes sense. This permits them to keep their skills sharp and make some pretty good extra money. I'd be surprised if others don't do likewise.
Of more importance, however, it demonstrates that players are itching to play and are sick and tired of the indecisiveness of their union and the team owners. These young men know they only have so many peak performance years in them, and the last thing they want is to waste time twiddling their thumbs.
Owing to failure to fashion a new collective bargaining agreement, the lockout--which began July 1--could shorten the 2011-12 season. The last time this happened was in 1998-99 and resulted in a truncated, 50-game season that left everyone dissatisfied.
This time around, NBA Commissioner David Stern, on Sept. 23, indefinitely postponed the Oct. 3 scheduled start of team training camps and canceled 43 preseason games. Even worse, the impasse could threaten the entire 82-game regular schedule, which is to begin Nov. 1--which Stern warned of on Sept. 29 before backtracking.
Predictably, things have heated up between owners and players. For example, the Miami Heat's normally soft-spoken Dwyane Wade screamed at Stern in a five-hour negotiating session Sept. 30, highlighting the raw feelings.