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If you’ve been following the NBA lockout’s strained developments, you’ve read plenty about salary based considerations: the hard cap versus the flex cap, “union” demands of a 52 percent share of a billion-dollar kitty and “management’s” firm position that they shall go no higher than 50%. Small team owners – some of whom made quite a few poor draft pick selections over the years – pining for a redistribution of total revenue amongst the 30 NBA organizations to bridge the competitive gap between big market franchises and smaller ones.
All of these discussions are legitimized as “union politics” by one report after another. If you go on NBATV, upon the completion of yet another “NBA Classic” replay, a few reporters will occasionaly present a late breaking update on negotiations. Perhaps there will be a comment on how the “lockout” will affect players’ salaries come November. There seems to be little hope for the right words: “arbitatration,” “resolution.”
As fans, we’re owls perched high above the bargaining table, casting our eyes on the lexicon of a union-related issue. Still, is it really “union politics” that is going on here? Unions are an American-originated polity formed in the late 19th century. They weren’t formed so that the wealthy may fight over 2.5% points of a monetary treasure of Hummers, top private schools, and million-dollar estates. Unions were established so that workers would unite during a period in which the paucity of labor and employment laws on both a federal and state level failed to address various unscrupulous management practices: excessive, bone-crushing work hours, unsanitary work conditions, unreasonable if not life-threatening job requirements, and ethnic and racial discrimination.
The union strike or management lock-out was not a matter of endless debate over an extra $100 million, set in posh conference rooms with mahogany walls. They were about steel workers with hungry families picketing outside their factory amid shrill winds and ungodly cold. Or, to be fair, sometimes they were about management locking out workers because ownership really couldn’t afford to meet a unions’ demands.
Let’s be honest here – applying union terminology as the reason for any postponement of the NBA season is unjustly euphmeistic. The “NBA Lockout” is nothing more than negotations between top .1% of income earners in the world; luxurious battles of will over an abundance of riches. Union activity? Really? If you want to see that, go to the New York financial district and check out the union rallies at the Occupy Wall Street march. And, while we’re on the topic of “unions,” what about the various food, drink, and clothing vendors, stadium maintenance workers, team administrative support staff? What about the economic sector either within or inextricably related to the NBA that may actually need a unionized voice to sustain their lifestyles in this cruel recessionary economy? Shouldn’t they have a vote in this “union” politics?
And then, there are the “fans.” The few hundred thousand NBA fans who, united in the stands on a nightly basis, are quite responsibile for the explosion of NBA player salaries over the last 25 years. Still, these people are just that: “fans,” not, say, “shareholders” or some entity that may have true clout at the bargaining table. The fans’ contributions require no pecuniary reciprocity (just loyalty) and thus, cannot be considered a fundamental part of NBA “union politics”…or…whatever you want to call the impetus behind the NBA season’s looming cancellation.