Monday, November 14, 2011

NBA lockout heads to courtroom

The NBA season now teeters on the brink, after the NBPA rejected the league's latest proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement on Monday, and then filed a "disclaimer of interest," which essentially dissolves the players union.

What does it mean?

Hello, courtroom.

The players held a press conference on Monday afternoon announcing the move, and in that time, they said the negotiation process had completely broken down, and that this was their only move.

It is hard to not come off as taking a side when you write a blog on the subject, but I really don't think I'll have that problem. In not taking a side, I can easily assess blame to both sides. The players have given back (reportedly), on many key issues, mainly 7 full percentage points on that magical Basketball Related Income number (BRI for simplicity purposes). Each point represents a significant amount of money, and the players giving that back to the owners was a substantial release. The players wanted other concessions in order to soften the blow, and the owners were not willing to give in more.

In my humble opinion, the players have moved towards a resolution, but only so far. the owners have moved towards a solution, but again, only so far. Where they have failed to meet, is in the middle. Ultimately, this deal will get done with BOTH sides having to sign off on a deal that is not perfect for either. Thing is now, it's heading to court with anti-trust lawsuits and lawyers, and all the stuff that are sadly becoming more and more of a presence in the games we love.

Should the players accept less than 50 percent of the BRI? I say no. Should they have a bigger piece than 50 percent? I would say yes, but how much? Basketball games do not produce a tangible thing. A widget doesn't come from a game. A stereo, a tv, a car, none of those things. This is all about entertainment. The tangible result of a sporting event is the outcome of the game. A winner and a loser. That's it.

There is no game without players, and there is no league without owners. Certainly, the sides understand that. The GAME is the product. The game is what people shell out their hard-earned dollars to go see. So to me, the players could stand to get a piece of the pie SLIGHTLY larger than 50 percent.

But, with the understanding that players don't have a place to play without the owners, I see why ownership would say they deserve more, since they are taking the financial risk of ownership, which involves meeting payroll, marketing, paying support staff, and all that.

Why is this so contentious? Here's why. The players don't believe things are so bad the system needs to be blown up. The owners feel that the current business model means they would continue to lose money. It has been reported that NBA owners would loss LESS money if a season isn't played at all, so what incentive do they have to get a deal in place now? The answer is none. If it costs less to not play, why would they rush and take a deal they didn't like or want?

How quickly this gets resolved will depend on both sides realizing that they are going to have to choke down a deal that won't taste good to them. Owners and players alike. All the blustering and posturing is going to do is isolate the fans further and further away from the NBA. Unlike the NFL, people will find other things to watch, rather than feel like they are missing out on the NBA.

Me? I miss the NBA. I miss watching the games, and even shooting them from my seat on the floor. I will miss the games that aren't being played, and at some point, the fans will too. Until then, the general reaction from people about this work stoppage is that it's "millionaires arguing with billionaires," and there's no greater disconnect for people in this current economy than that.

Mike Solarte

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