As the NBA lockout drags on, we continue to hear stories about contentious meetings between the owners and the players and how the owners are prepared to go without the whole season to prove their point and get their way. The owners apparently still a hard cap, and a major giveback on the salary side from the players, and they have used threats about the impending doom headed toward the league if things are not changed immediately. And when the accounting practices of the league have been challenged, the pushback has been quick and strong. The league is clearly using fuzzy math to make it look like 23 teams out of 30 are losing money, when the number is probably much lower.
I’m not saying that the league doesn’t need to tweak the financials a bit. The NFL has shown that socialism is the way to go, and the NBA has operated a long way from that. There isn’t enough in the way of revenue sharing to keep some of the smaller markets competitive. But that’s not what the owners are telling us. They’ve decided that they way to go is to bash the players as overpaid, and let their lapdogs in the media convey that same message to the public. It’s easy for working class folks and middle aged sportswriters to get mad at younger guys making tens of millions of dollars, especially when they’re constantly showing up in police blotters and gossip rags.
But here’s the thing: Rashard Lewis did not go into the Orlando Magic offices, Suge Knight style, and demand $100 million. Joe Johnson did not go to the Atlanta Hawks management with photos in an envelope and blackmail them into giving him two huge contracts. These teams and others made these contract offers, often bidding against themselves. How can you agree to a $50 to $100 million contract and then say that it’s ruining your bottom line two years later? You’re either: (a) really stupid, or (b) lying. I vote for (b). Between double counting salaries as losses on their books, not including the generous subsidies they receive from us into their calculations, and other accounting tricks that are perfectly legal but definitely misleading, they are trying to convince us all that the greedy players are driving the league over the cliff. Don’t fall for it, people. remember, Joe Johnson’s new contract was agreed to in the midst of all this crying by David Stern and company. So a team that struggles to fill its building in a league that is supposedly in dire straits can afford to give a good but not great player max dollars? How does that work?
That’s the question you have to ask, instead of wondering why a guy got $80 million when he should only get half or a third of that. He got what he got because he negotiated it. Period, end of story. If the team can’t pay it today, then it probably couldn’t have paid when they agreed to it. Like the Wall Street banks and the rich folks manipulating Washington, they want to pass the consequences of their personal excess and bad decisions onto those further down the income food chain. That’s the essence of real class warfare, and it’s everywhere. Don’t let the same people who charge you $10 for beer, $25 for parking, and hundreds of dollars for tickets keep fooling you. And don’t fall for the lie that those prices are linked to player salaries; the owners would charge you these prices regardless of their payrolls. Support the men who get your attention and earn your money, and not those who are trying to get over on you again.