Blog Entry

NBA, Players devolve to arguing over schedules

Posted on: August 11, 2011 8:20 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2011 9:36 pm
Posted by Ben Golliverdavid-stern-asleep

Welcome to a post about the most boring labor negotiation posturing of all time.

Since the NBA lockout went into effect on July 1, the league's owners and the National Basketball Players Association have met exactly once. Nothing was accomplished and the next day the league launched two legal claims against the players. 

Amazingly, those now look like the good old days. The two sides are now not only are not meeting with each other, they are pettily pointing the finger across the table and quibbling about scheduling issues.

The Boston Globe reported on Thursday that NBA commissioner David Stern launched the first missile. "NBA Commissioner David Stern tells the Globe that the NBA Players Association canceled a scheduled meeting today with the league," the site reported.

Just hours later, Yahoo! Sports quoted an anonymous source from the players' side firing back with a slightly different story.
Union sources said the players didn’t have a meeting scheduled with Stern and his negotiating team.

“The NBA refused to have a staff meeting [Thursday],” a union official said. “Billy Hunter has been with the [National Labor Relations Board] the entire week, including Thursday, and the NBPA was told that Stern would be completely unavailable to meet for the next two weeks.”
The NBA continues to make misstep after misstep in the public relations battle. 

As noted back in July, the owners will be blamed for a work stoppage because they have so adamantly refused to moderate their positions on the issues. One great way to diffuse some of that anger would be by making themselves endlessly available for negotiations so as to give the appearance of protecting the fan's interest and expressing a commitment to a resolution.

Here's the advice for owners on this subject that we laid out back in July.
Fans do not want to miss games whatsoever. The players seem committed to doing whatever it takes to not miss games. At least some portion of the owners seem content to miss a whole season. That's a huge public relations black eye.

The best way to fix it? Go way above and beyond to make it clear that you're willing to meet to negotiate at any time and place. No two-to-three week breaks after the lockout is imposed. No waiting until the players start to feel a pinch in the fall. No delay tactics. If you're seriously committed to potentially losing a season, you absolutely have to be able to point to your track record and say, "Look, we did everything in our power to prevent this from happening. We killed ourselves to make a deal." Get up early, stay late, use videoconferencing tools, use subcommittees. Whatever. It. Takes. If you want a new, restructured economic system then you must do everything in your power to prove your commitment to the goal. 

Missing a season would be a bitter pill to swallow, but it will be 10 times worse if it happens without continued negotiations and contact between the sides between now and the start of training camp. The general public hates billionaires and millionaires arguing over money. But the general public really hates billionaires and millionaires who can't even be brought to the same table to argue over money.
Stern does a disservice to his league and the game if anything takes precedence over the ongoing labor negotiations. There's no excuse for avoiding continued dialogue, even if the face-to-face meetings continue to be fruitless for the foreseeable future. 

If there's one saving grace here, it's that Stern did offer a solid veiled threat to the Boston Globe: "I expect that we’ll make a deal because the alternative is very destructive,” he said. “It’s destructive of $2 billion worth of player salaries and it’s destructive most important to our fans of the game. And if it spirals badly everyone gets hurt. But in some ways I worry because the players have more to lose, especially those in the later stages of their career. So we’re going to do everything we can when the rhetoric slows down to get this thing back on track."
I never thought I would say this, but threats, insults, rhetoric, hyperbole and forced analogies are all vastly preferable to sniping over calendars. Please, gentlemen, let's get back in the conference room so we can ramp up the public putdowns and take a slow step towards saving the game of basketball.

Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: August 12, 2011 7:19 am

NBA, Players devolve to arguing over schedules

Lee: you left out one point of rather great import

Namely, no one gives a blank what you or i think either, least of all the owners or [sadly] the players.  I seriously doubt Ben gives a blank what we think either, though the fact that we respond to his blank means he earns a bit more money. 

So, I wouldn't question his business acumen--especially as no one really knows what that is; the only proof that you "have" business sense is that you make money; and a lot of guys who make lots of money also lose lots of money.  Was Enron good business or bad?  Lehman Brothers? 

It is entirely possible, my friend, that the 30 business owners in the NBA have no clue.  Look at the evidence:

1)  They signed a business agreement that turns out, they claim, to be detrimental to their own interests.

2)  They have been, they claim, losing money in a business arena in which they posses a legal monopoly--which is tough to do.

3)  They have to have an outside force (Mr. Stern) to enforce order among themselves.

4)  They are the ones who made the agreement they signed (1) untenable, because they could not restrain their own spending.  It is they who awarded over-sized, unwarranted contracts.

5) They have twice, in recent history, repeated the worst business mistake of all: placing a store/franchise where a previous iteration of same has just failed miserably without changing in any way,shape, or form, the product or the store.

These guys may know computer chips, or cell phones, or glass factories--whatever their core business is; that I will not dispute.  Whether or not they possess business acumen, in general, is an open question [how many of these clowns inherited their wealth, after all?] and whether they possess SPORTS BUSINESS sense is doubtful.  If they did, we wouldn't be here.

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: August 12, 2011 2:56 am

NBA, Players devolve to arguing over schedules

Ben, since giving unasked for advice seems to be the point of this post I will offer you some of the same:

  • When considering the actions of 30 businessmen who have each made more today than either of us will make in our lifetime it just might be that they know more than either of us about how to handle negotiations.

  • When choosing sides in a labor dispute it behooves you to understand the role of capital in this country. The players are employees. The owners are employers. If the employees will not work for a wage that provides the employers opportunity to make a return of investment than that business will be shut down until they will work for such a wage.

  • In the early months of a labor dispute the lies flow readily from each side. There is no point in picking them apart because they are not meant. Eventually both sides will emerge with a CBA and big smiles and everyone will be good again.

  • The owners do not give a blank about what you think. The fans are going to judge this dispute for whichever side caves because that caving could have come at the beginning. Fans are not so stupid as to make this all one side or the other. But a failed business model in the last CBA guarantees that the next one will have the opportunity for all 30 teams to earn a profit.

  • Stern is saying there will be a season. Hunter is saying there will not be a season. Only one can be correct but the one that believes there will be a season is trying harder than the one that has already written it off. There is no way to say you are bargaining in good faith while saying there is no chance of a season.
I appreciate your basketball knowledge. I question (from your posts) your business knowledge. This is not basketball. This is business.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or