No sympathy for players in NBA lockout

Mike McMahon
Journal Staff

Well it’s official, the NBA will not be playing games on November 1st. Commissioner David Stern announced on Monday that the first two weeks of the season have been officially called off and all hope of an 82 game season are out the door.
Stern went on to state that the two parties are still very far apart in the negotiations, saying that they were separated by a “gulf.” With no new negotiation dates scheduled, NBA fans are left wondering how much of the season will actually be played or if there will even be a season.
While both sides disagree on “virtually all issues” as Stern put it, the main disagreement in the negotiations seems to be on the punitive luxury-tax system that the owners are trying to push on the players’ union. The union views this proposal to essentially be the same as the hard salary cap that the owners were pushing in earlier negotiations.
The owners want to avoid teams exceeding the salary cap to resign their star players, forming lopsided competition. A luxury–tax system would have teams pay up to $4 for every $1 over the cap they go. This would obviously lead to all players, not just star players, receiving smaller salaries.
Player union president Derek Fisher claimed that it is well known that the players simply just want to play, claiming that a lockout is not a strike and they are in the position they are in because of the owners.
The NBA is a corporation. These arguments are not about getting back to playing basketball games for the fans’ sake, they are about making sure the stars are going to get their money and the owners not wanting to pay them. While the owners are slightly delirious thinking that this new luxury-tax system will eliminate star players getting overpaid, it does not mean the players union still isn’t being selfish.
The players union knows that the NBA has nothing if it doesn’t have star-studded teams like the Heat and the Celtics and are under the impression that the owners will give in first. Little do they know, the NBA is more of a businessman’s league than say, the NFL.
A lot of NFL owners are diehard football fans with deep ties to their organizations like the late Al Davis, or the Rooney’s, who have owned the Steelers since the 30s. Making sure football games are played is a top priority to them.
NBA owners are more than willing to sacrifice games to win this deal because they believe it will allow them to make more money down the road without having to spend as much to build a good team.
You can’t help but compare the NBA lockout to the one the NFL had this summer. The biggest difference is that the NBA is a league that only thrives on the success of its star players. Without guys like Lebron, Wade, Kobe, Howard, and Chris Paul, the NBA doesn’t sell as well.
The NFL has a deep core of fans that don’t care what players they are watching. The logo on the helmet means a lot more than the name on the back of the jersey to an NFL fan. The same cannot be said for the NBA.
The NFL is generally able to control the fame of their players through rules, handing out fine after fine. Players in the NFL are not allowed to remove their helmets on the field. That’s just one example that the NFL only lets fans get on a personal level with the players they want you to see.
The NFL lockout ended in a one-sided victory in favor of the owners because players did not have enough notoriety to make it necessary for the owners to budge. In the end, NFL players had too much respect for the game and the fans to carry on the arguments and cancel football games.
It is hard to show sympathy toward players that already own the highest average salaries for American sports and are willing to ask for more. Regardless what Derek Fisher says, this is not about basketball anymore. This is about the ego that NBA players carry among themselves.
The NBA will never again be a league where the name on the front of the jersey means more than the one on the back. So if the players really want to get back on the court that bad, there is one simple solution. Take your hits. Show that you have as much class as the NFL players’ union did and get back on the court for the sake of your sport.

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