Monday’s ruling in the NFL antitrust lawsuit could have a significant impact on the looming NBA labor discussions.
With U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruling that the NFL lockout is illegal, the NBA Players’ Union is ready to decertify if (read: when) the lockout arrives. There are immense problems within the league’s financial parity that have led to this situation, but the threat of a lockout is the main threat that the owners have in order to corral the short-sightedness of the players, and the ruling is a prime example of how players’ have wrested control from the hands of the owners and the league itself.
The difference between the NBA and the NFL in this situation, is that the NFL is immensely profitable while the NBA, yeah, not so much.
Judge Nelson’s ruling essentially halts the NFL lockout, because while the players are not getting paid, they are still essentially under contract. If this spreads to the NBA, there will be problems, because the way the NBA currently operates is unsustainable. Small-market teams, like the Hornets and Kings (as well as the Sonics before them), are going extinct like it’s the end of the Permian period. Revenue sharing, along with a hard salary cap, can help these small-market teams to make it through rough economic periods like we’re currently experiencing.
In comparison to the other major sports leagues, the NBA has been much more willing to allow franchises to suffer because of the dominance of the larger markets. Even in baseball, which is devoid of a salary cap, smart teams are still able to turn profits with low ticket prices due to revenue sharing and support from Major League Baseball itself.
While the NBA seems to support the owners, David Stern truly only focuses on the larger market teams. The largest problem, from the league’s standpoint, with revenue sharing is the money it would then take away from Stern’s golden franchises. The commissioner has shown repeatedly that the success of the Lakers, Bulls, Knicks and Celtics far exceeds the success of the league as a whole. The “superstar” franchises get preferential financial treatment, just like superstar players do. The league is losing its smaller market teams, because it simply doesn’t care enough about them.
If Sonicsgate was as bad as it was, imagine adding the Kings, Hornets, Raptors, Cavs, Grizzlies, and Pacers to the list of small market teams to be contracted. But the players’ (and most likely our generation’s) sense of entitlement is at least as harmful as the league’s preference.
NBA superstars are marketing items and are treated like gold. After this past offseason, the “Summer of Collusion”, the league ceded even more power to the key superstars, and acted lopsidedly against the owners and even less-popular players. David Stern smiled and threw up his hands at the Heat’s statements about planning to join forces years in advance, Mark Cuban was hit with that $100,000 fine simply for saying that he’d like for Lebron to play for the Mavs. When Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul (imagine them both on the Knicks, cha-ching!) both requested trades from their teams, they were not fined, yet Rudy Fernandez was hit with a couple fines for saying he wanted a release from his contract because he was homesick (allegedly having family issues in Spain).
NBA players have salaries that eclipse that of their forebears. Last year, Eddy Curry’s salary was equal to that of Michael Jordan’s combined salary through the entirety of his first three-peat. In comparison, Curry’s played in 10 total games in his past three years, for which he has been paid $31,754,998. For those playing along at home, that averages out to over 3 million dollars a game. While much of that blood falls on the hands of the owners, it also shows how NBA salaries have exploded, far surpassing the increases in revenue.
The NBA has seen the profitability that a legendary superstar can bring the league through Michael Jordan, yet Jordan is unique. As fans, we expect our teams to each have at least one franchise player, yet there simply aren’t enough people with the correct combination of both talent and determination available. Then, typically, a team’s best player gets the tag heaped upon him and a fat contract that he will never live up to; here we have the Danny Grangers, the Andrew Boguts. These players will never lead their team past the first round of the playoffs without an additional pseudo-franchise player.
Now, the ruling against the NFL’s ability to hold a lockout seems to give even more power to the players, setting a precedent that lockouts themselves can be deemed illegal. To take away lockout threats is not dissimilar to taking away a worker’s right to strike, it is a vital threat to keep the players from ruling.
While we have to recognize that the players have their rights and freedoms to protect, the owners are their bosses and have to be the grownups. They pay the bills, and the players should realize that without the NBA, most of them are simply unskilled laborers with 7-foot wingspans. The league, the owners, and the players need to set aside their greed so that they might actually turn a profit.
– Travis Austin Huse. Contributing writer.