Herb Kohl is one of the owners who has pushed for the proposals that have resulted in the ongoing NBA lockout, according to multiple reports. The popular narrative goes as follows: small-market owners are tired fo being doormats and losing money on their teams so they want a system that guarantees profitability and levels the playing field for them to compete with the Lakers and Celtics of the world. There's a lot of variation in that depending on who you talk to (for example, Ted Leonsis who owns the Washington D.C. Wizards is one such "small-market" owner), but that's the basic storyline being told by many of the reports.
If Kohl is on that side of the fence, though, it's a stunning reversal from public statements he's made in the past regarding what it means to own the Bucks. From Bucks blog Bucksketball:
“I’m not in this business to make any annual profits,” Kohl said after dismissing General Manager Larry Harris in 2008. “The value of the asset fortunately has appreciated over the years. On an annual basis, it’s a money-losing proposition. I’m in it because I love the sport, I love the competition and I love winning.”via Herb Kohl’s actions may be betraying his words |.
At what point does our current reality, the reality that has connected Kohl with a group of owners now looking to tip the basketball related income scales heavily in their favor while making other radical system changes, contrast with Kohl’s traditional motives that don’t involve making money, rather just competing and keeping the team he loves in Milwaukee?
Bucksketball notes that in the past, Kohl has been a staunch supporter of an increase in revenue sharing, citing MLB's model. So you can more easily understand this position than the caricature image of billionaire owners' gigantic maws trying to devour everything in existance. It's not unreasonable to want to be able to compete when you are at a disadvantage. You can argue the merits of whether or not good teams in big markets that make huge profits should have to share with their brethren, but this is at least something fans can agree with.
But then, as always, there's the money.
In that above quote, Kohl says he's not in this business to make any annual profits. And that's right decent of him. Having owners that just want to win for themselves and the fans really should be what professional sports, and in particular the NBA, is about. If you're trying to make a lot of money by owning an NBA team, to borrow a phrase, you're doing it wrong. That's not the path. So why then the revenue split tactics? Why shake the players down for 50/50 BRI or lower?
Furthermore, why isn't this an internal issue with the league? If you're looking to change the system, change the system. The players at any point after, say, August would happily have granted systemic changes in exchange for the BRI cut back. And a better revenue sharing system, a legitimate one that actually accounts for the unfathomable riches that come with each team's independent television deal, would more than have at least started the teams on the way back to profitability.
But again, we ask. What's this about, profitability or competitive balance? The league wants to maintain that it's about both. But in reality, what the NBA really needs is for its owners to decide a vision for their own ownership and stick with it.