The lockout is over — and the robber barons win again


The NBA’s new 10-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is now in place. Among its key provisions is a near-even split of the oft-mentioned and hotly contested Basketball Related Income (BRI). The owners got a 10 percent raise from the last CBA, up from 43 percent to now between 49-51 percent. Meanwhile the players, who once got 57 percent, saw their BRI cut reduced at least seven percent.

The players will still make money, but the rich owners will still get richer. And the beat goes on.

It was not a battle of billionaires (the 30 NBA team owners) versus millionaires (the mostly Black players) as White reporters, columnists and sports talk hosts would want you to believe.  They were the owners’ Twitter as they constantly fed such false messages to the masses, which in turn unwillingly convicted the players guilty as charged in the public opinion courtroom.

The players were often portrayed as greedy and ungrateful, but the simple truth is that the NBA players are just like the out-of-work Crystal Sugar workers — both groups were locked out by the owners. Led by Commish David Stern, the team owners put on a full-court press, hoping to browbeat the minions into settling for a less desired agreement, banking on the players’ lack of leverage as the owners could afford to wait them out.

Speaking through Stern, the owners boldly threaten to shut down the entire season. Until the two sides finally came together during Thanksgiving weekend, owners were fully prepared to act on their threat.

“I think it would have been a huge mountain to climb to get the fans back if the entire season would have been wiped out,” notes Greg Kelser, a former NBAer, now a longtime Detroit Pistons and college basketball analyst.

Instead, this was the powerful (owners) versus the powerless (players). The NBA players have little or no say about things. Even though they have free agency, thanks to the late major league baseball player Curt Flood, who sued for such but never got it, the players can put themselves up to the highest bidder. But in the final analysis, they are nothing more than athletic working stiffs for Da Man.

In a phone interview, Kelser last week offered a quick summation of the NBA’s first labor impasse since 1999. The CBA “is a give-and-take” pact between the two sides, he explains. “Sometimes you come out of it feeling even or feeling that you’ve won. Sometimes you have to give something back that you gained over a course of time.”

But the group who always gets the short end of the stick in labor disputes is those part-time workers at games. The new CBA didn’t mention any provision for lost wages or lost workdays for them, since the 2011-12 regular season is shortened by 16 games this year.

“They are the ones that don’t necessarily get considered whenever there is a labor dispute,” Kelser points out of these workers. “I don’t know if they ever will be, but clearly these people are important. Their income [from working games] is a critical purpose in the lives of many people. Don’t expect them to be considered during a lockout, because that is not the nature of things.”

Unfortunately, the fans, because of owner propaganda, would rather direct their angst on labor (the players) instead of properly directing it toward the robber barons (the owners). By the way, there’s no mention of these owners lowering ticket prices in the new CBA.

Mo’ money! Mo’ money!

“It is going to be a marathon,” Kelser surmises of the 66-game NBA schedule that starts on Christmas Day and is “played over a four-month stretch. There won’t be a whole lot of downtime [or] too many days of non-playing. It’s gong to be bang-bang the whole way. Hopefully the fans will enjoy the pace.

“I don’t think you will know…exactly where these teams [stand] through the first 20 games,” continues Kelser. “[There] is going to be a period of adjustment for so many of the teams and players. I think more teams than not will be using the first 20 games to break in [the players].”

The Minnesota Timberwolves, which has a new coach and again a bunch of new players, opens its 2011-12 season with six of its first seven games at home, including the December 26 season opener against Oklahoma City.

Kelser adds that probably it won’t be until around game number 32 that things start to level out league-wide.

Personally, I think playing 60 or so games each year is better than the regular 82-game NBA schedule. I liked the last lockout-shortened season in 1999 because there were fewer games where players “took the night off.”

Finally the lockout is over –— let the games begin.

“Now it’s up to the players to go out and make sure the absolute best product can be displayed every night,” concludes Kelser.