Posted on: October 14, 2011 12:29 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 12:46 pm
By Matt Moore
If you'd asked me yesterday afternoon about NBA players and their use of Twitter during the lockout, I would have said two things. One, they are almost entirely unapproachable, preferring to answer only elements of positive support or comments from other players. And two, their knowledge of how to use Twitter to express their views about the lockout have been woefully inadequate. Most notably, the #standunited and #letusplay hashtags were terribly conceived. You know what happens if you tell the public to ask the owners to let them play without any context as to the issue or your real position? You look stupid. And incapable of harnessing social media. And did I mention stupid?
If you're the union and want to use Twitter correctly, you can hold the line on the players' side of negotiations while actually being honest with fans. Sure, a lot of casual fans aren't aware of the nuances of the lockout. But those same individuals are unlikely to be swayed by a hashtag. There's more information than ever available for interested fans to learn about BRI, revenue sharing, all of it. Whether they agree with you or not, it's better to level with them and seem reasonable than to simply blindly shout at the owners and beseech the fans to support the players without understanding their side of the dispute. Shouting hasn't gotten us anywhere in the lockout, on either side.
Which is why Anthony Tolliver's appearance on Twitter Thursday night was such a surprise. I found Tolliver taking questions from fans with actual substance regarding the lockout. Our brief exchange, while he also discussed the dispute with other fans was both mature and insightful. This from a player who worked his way up from the D-League into a reserve role with the Wolves last season. Tolliver is at once the kind of player who needs the lockout over most based on his salary and the kind of player that the lockout is being waged over, the non-stars who feel they need long-term stability.
It began with Tolliver commenting "If the owners want competative balance lets have no cap! #letsjustplaybasketball." I responded to another comment from him regarding how baseball has competitive balance (on the surface, considering the small market teams that regularly appear in the World Series; timely given the Championship Series of St. Louis-Milwaukee), asking about how the Yankees still enjoy a distinct advantage due to their payroll. It was then that Tolliver began to engage in an actual dialogue, the kind the union should have been having its players participate in with fans or media or whoever they'd like instead of participating in the Twitter version of holding a sign while yelling into a megaphone. What follows are pieces of that conversation. Tweets have been edited to make reading it easier. It's hard to hold a conversation in 140 characters at a time.
Tolliver: Smart management is what creates competitive balance more than anything....not caps.
Tolliver: The Yanks have had success but what im saying is that the owners think they can "fix" the balance with a cap.
Moore: Well, that's what they're saying. I've gotten to where I don't believe they care about the balance at all. Just the profit.
Tolliver: I agree...lol. At the end of the day if they all can line their pockets with more cash they wont care about balance.
Moore: Do you guys care about competitive balance or is it one where you think it will just work itself out, i.e. survival of fittest?
Tolliver: I played on the worst team in the league and im not asking for help! we have enough talent to improve and compete.
Moore: So you think with... different approaches by management (trying to keep you out of trouble) the Wolves can compete with LA?
Tolliver: It is tougher for small market teams but it always will be
Moore: Right, but the ability to abuse the lux tax by large markets helps. There's a balance to be struck there, right?
Tolliver: With great draft choices and strategic trades i believe that ANY team can be very competitive.
Moore: (I) (d)on't mind shortening the gap with (revenue) sharing or some systemic change. (I) mind owners bullying you and squabbling over who offered 50/50 first.
Tolliver: Oh and the revenue sharing for the NBA is by far the lowest of all professional sports so yeah...that needs to increase fa sho.
Moore: If you're keeping guaranteed contracts (which you should), is shortening them a reasonable compromise? Just how much is (the question)?
Tolliver: I think shortening them is fair...and even compromising on other issues is fair as long as its compromising on both ends.
Tolliver: I believe there needs to be some changes as well. i just want a fair deal so i can play the game that i love.
Moore: Problem is that when you guys say you want to play, fans get insulted because you want to play for what you feel is a fair deal. You guys would do better if you didn't say you just wanted to play, but wanted to play when you're not bullied. Most of the smart people know the owners have driven the lockout, but the "we just want to play" approach is patronizing.
Tolliver: Why is that patronizing? We all just want to play ball BUT with a fair deal. I guess its all relative.
Moore: We live in a smarter world with messaging. So saying "just want to play" when there are caveats seems disingenuous, even if not.
Tolliver: Thats way too much to say lol...I'll stick with I JUST WANT TO PLAY. LOL.
Moore: Hey, that's easier. I'm just telling you the reactions the media gets from fans, a lot of whom have supported the union.
Tolliver: I gotcha...when players say that they dont want to offend the fans. we know the fans MAKE us who we are.. #fanappreciation
Moore: Do you think the anger and resentment from the players side at the owners antics is a good thing or a bad thing?
Tolliver: I'm not sure if the emotions the players are showing hurt or help our cause..all i know is guys LOVE this game and want to play.
Moore: Amar'e, Blake, Kobe, Steve seem pretty reasonable, but some of your guys are downright pissed. Hurt or help?
Tolliver: Some guys dont (know) all the details of whats going on..all they (know) is that the owners are locking us out & that makes them mad.
Moore: How much of it do you follow?
Tolliver: I follow every word, every article, every news story...this is my livelyhood for hopefully the next 10 years!
Moore: Has the lockout been one of the few instances where the players don't feel like the media is out to get them?
Tolliver: Media is ALWAYS out to get us! They are EVIL!!! LOL
Moore: You realize now I have to write a post tomorrow that says "WOLVES PF BELIEVES IN OCCULT" right? It's in my contract. #notreally
Tolliver: LOL aight...i dont want u to lose ur job. LOL.
Tolliver also took questions and comments from a number of fans and writers on Twitter, giving what at least appeared to be honest opinions about the state of negotiations.
His insight is a nice peek beneath the rhetoric. Tolliver acknowledges the need for change and compromise, while holding to his colleagues' stances on various issues including competitive balance. He doesn't dodge questions about players' reactions to the dispute, but also doesn't try and speak for them or against him. It's this kind of reasonable, honest dialogue that should be the backbone of the negotiations, not the players' discussions with fans and media on Twitter. But at least it shows us that the middle class of NBA players, who have become the dividing line in the negotiations headed intow next week's mediation session, have a working knowledge of the dispute, the issues involved, and a recognition of how the lockout is hurting the fans. They're willing to listen. If only both sides guiding the dispute would.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 6:39 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
NBA labor talks are about to get an injection of Uncle Sam.
National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter told WFAN radio in New York on Wednesday that the NBA and its players union will continue talks with the help of a federal mediator next week.
"We've agreed as of today that we're going to meet with a federal mediator on Monday," Hunter said.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that a "league source confirms the two sides are working on scheduling a meeting for early next week." Berger also reports further details of the mediation process here.
Sports law analyst Gabe Feldman said Wednesday that the presence of a mediator could reflect "a sense of urgency" and that it represents a "step in the right direction" for negotiations that had appeared to be at a standstill.
Hunter also said during the interview that he expects the two sides to reach a deal in time to play the league's traditional slate of games on Christmas and that the NBA and its players are "within the zone to make a deal" when it comes to the splitting of revenues, with the players currently offering to take 53 percent of the league's Basketball-Related Income and the owners offering a 47 percent cut to the players. System issues, Hunter maintained, continue to be the holdup. Those issues include the structure of the luxury tax system and the length of contracts.
Prior to Hunter's statements, no official talks between the two sides had been scheduled following a session in New York on Monday that failed to produce an agreement and resulted in the cancellation of the first two weeks of the NBA season.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:41 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 11:51 am
By Matt Moore
The players truly believe that they are the league. Not the franchises, logos, stadiums, coaches, management, or the game itself. And no, not the fans, though they do believe the fans are vital, obviously. No, they think the National Basketball Association is made up of players and it is the players who are the product. That's where the belief that they are entitled to more than 50 percent of the BRI comes from. And it's not bad logic, truth be told. It's debatable, but a sound starting place.
To that end, there have been discussions that, basically, if the owners are going to take away their league, the players will just start another. And lookee here, Amar'e Stoudemire's right on time promoting his new shoe (and throwing teammates under the deoderant bus, apparently) to chime in with where he sees things going if the lockout isn't resolved. From the New York Post:
Amar'e Stoudemire said last night if the NBA lockout wipes out the season, he believes the players will form their own league instead of trying to catch on in Europe.via Knicks Stoudemire says players will start own league - NYPOST.com.
Setting aside the outright horror of that phrase "one or two years," it's not surprising that Stoudemire would go this route. He's an idealist, a dreamer (but he's not the only one). The players harnessing their own value and starting their own league sounds like a great idea. And it would be, if they had a consultant group to handle the entire process and a two year window just to get things operational.
The big X-factors in this discussion are two entities. Nike and ESPN. Both companies have enough invested in the NBA and its players to create a paradox for themselves. They could benefit tremendously from putting the players, particularly those in the Nike stable, on a massive stage they themselves create, and have the industry connections to create a functioning league. They simply have the resources. At the same time, both enjoy a relationship with the NBA, one that they'll have to maintain after the lockout ends. They can't help the players here because they need the league and they can't help the league because they need the players.
Stoudemire did go on to say that he believes the lockout will end after the two weeks are lost, which is a nice thought. But after the events of the last week, it's hard to see either of Amar'e's dreams becoming a reality.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 11:18 am
By Matt Moore
There's a growing movement that things aren't really that bad in this lockout. "The stadium workers are part-time," is part of the argument, without realizing the situation of so many of the actual jobs involved or how much of a percentage of income those jobs are. "The arenas will still be open for concerts" is another fun one, not factoring the 41 events a year that are now in jeopardy. But the real problem is all of the ways it filters down. Take television revenues, for instance.
Each NBA team has a contract with a local TV provider for the games that usually includes pre- and post-game coverage. It's true the networks won't have to pay the teams for the games missed. But it also means those networks are having to replace the games with lesser content that won't sell high quality ad content. From the Los Angeles Times:
While much of the attention on the lockouts impact on the media has focused on ESPN and TNT, much-harder hit will be local sports channels such as News Corp.s Fox Sports West, which carries the Los Angeles Lakers. Fox Sports and cable giant Comcast Corp. are two of the biggest operators of so-called regional sports networks.via NBA labor strife bad for ESPN, TNT and regional sports networks - latimes.com.
Some of the camera and production crews are likely on salary and will probably be kept by the local affiliates. But there are also countless part-time and contract workers that help in the production of a live sports broadcast. Those jobs? In danger. The impact will be felt throughout the community. Everything trickles down. The networks lose sponsor money. Sponsors lose a viable advertising source which impacts business even if they save the cost of advertising.
And there are other impacts, like bars and restaurants. From the AP:
"I'm worried that my money situation is going to change — a lot," said waitress Zuly Molina, who works at a Hooters at the Bayside complex next to the Miami Heat's home arena. "It was a lot better last year. We had business before every game, during every game with people who couldn't get tickets watching in here, then after every game. Now it's gone, except for when they have a concert or something like that."via Lockout's real pain felt beyond owners and players - Houston Chronicle.
You don't have to be a fan of Hooters to get where she's coming from. Waiters, waitresses, hosts, hostesses, bartenders, chefs, independent ticket vendors, independent merchandise retailers, the list goes on and on. The gap the two sides in the lockout are apart doesn't begin to hurt the parties involved on the level it impacts the people in the economies dependent on these games. They want to talk about how it's a business. Part of your responsibility in being a business that is publicly supported and in part funded through arenas is to be a responsible member of the local economy.
Truth is, we dont' know what the damage is going to be yet. We're just getting a taste. But hey, at least Micky Arison is eating well.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:56 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 5:52 am
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Time waits for no man. Or union of men.
One day after the NBA announced that it was cancelling the first two weeks of the regular season after failed negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association, ESPN.com reports that the union has scheduled its next major meeting to discuss the state of affairs.
The NBPA's last major meeting was held in Las Vegas in September. Hunter and NBPA president Derek Fisher led the proceedings and handing out t-shirts that read "Stand" to roughly 35 players who attended.
The NBPA had planned to hold a regional meetings in Los Angeles on Monday but Hunter's plans changed when the NBA and NBPA decided to engage in last-minute talks on Sunday that carried over into Monday.
Hunter enters the L.A. meeting as the bearer of bad news. With both economic and system issues separating the players and owners in their negotiations, the pressure from his rank-and-file is only going to increase as the players continue down the road toward missed paychecks. Hunter is tasked with plotting the next steps for the union while each two weeks that pass represent the possibility of another two weeks of the regular season cancelled.
On Tuesday night, there were still no official meetings between the NBA and the NBPA scheduled.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:28 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:44 pm
By Matt Moore
Now the wolves come a-hunting.
For nearly a year, one of the goals of both sides in the labor dispute has been to avoid sending it to the courts. The NBA saw the mess that became of the NFL lockout once decertification came through, the amount spent on lawyer's fees and research, the ugly impact on PR. And probably somewhere in there, he also saw that there was a possibility, no matter how remote, that the league could lose. After the NFL lost the first decision, there must have been a shiver down David Stern's spine, even if he was aware and confident that it would be overturned and then upheld in appeal. If the NBA owners haven't failed to bargain in good faith, they've certaintly took bad faith out for a spin in Daddy's car and held its hand for a while.
Similarly, Billy Hunter knew that decertification could cost his side everything. Yes, personally, he could lose his job and that's a pretty strong motivating factor for anyone, should he not return as head under the new union. But it could also mean essentially getting the courts to affirm the league's power and advantage. The players would also have to afford court fees and the public scrutiny that would come with such a move, not to mention the fact that the players would look like "Lord of the Flies," lopping off their own head to dance around in anger around an owner effigy pyre. Hunter knew that the threat of decertification was more powerful than actually moving the debate into the court.
But now, after having the first twenty games cancelled, with paychecks that would be coming now not in a few weeks, with the league's image tarnished by greed, both sides are aware.
The wolves will be back, now. And this time the gates may not hold them out.
If ever there was a time for the agents who had been pushing for decertification and undermining the efforts of the union to say "They had their chance, now it's ours," that time is now. And Hunter may be at the point where it's better to join the barbarians at the gate than keep rallying the Roman Senators while they're stealing from each other's pocketbooks. Hunter washing his hands of negotiation and aiming to take the owners down to the players' level might be the only way to truly put the fear of God back into Stern and his constituents in order to get movement towards compromise. There may be no other option. The players's side has been adamant that losing games doesn't scare them. You know who says things like that loudly? People who are scared of losing games. The players know the score even if they won't admit it. They have little leverage, and the more paychecks that are missed, the worse it will get. The escrow money, sponsorship money, the overseas money won't last forever, won't cover the missing income forever, and at that point, things turn.
Not everyone thinks that this thing will rocket towards legal briefs, however. From Sports Illustrated:
Lastly, you’ll hear lots of talk now about the union decertifying and filing an antitrust suit against the league. Some hard-line agents have pushed for this, and there is the perception that the NFL union’s move to decertify created a bit of temporary leverage, since any successful antitrust suit could wring billions in damages from the owners.via The Point Forward » Posts Key points as full season falls by the wayside «.
Unfortunately, that assumes that both sides are thinking strategicall, rationally, logically. Consider the following from long-time basketball scribe Jan Hubbard:
As the percentages each side said were required for a deal haven gotten closer and closer, writers covering negotiations have been more and more dumbfounded that a middle point could not be found. By not playing basketball games in the preseason and now cancelling the first two weeks of the regular season, each side has sacrificed more than it would lose with the other side’s deal. So why not compromise?via Players Beware: It’s a Coldblooded Financial World | Sports Righting.
And that just about does it. It's true that both sides are so close to a deal, or at least close enough that it's closer than what a court decision would bring in terms of time. But that assumes that either side is interested in compromise. The players feel they've compromised enough, because they believe that the previous deal is a precedent that should be in play, despite this being a new agreement and not an extension or renegotiation. The owners believe they've compromised enough, because they took their demands from "Oh My God, are you out of your mind?!" to "You can't be serious... wait, you're serious?!" territory.
Neither side wants compromise. They want to win.
And decertification and subsequent court battles may be the only way they can see to win outright. Who would want to compromise when you can win?
Oh, that's right. The fans. But they don't get a say.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:59 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 5:48 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
On Monday morning, the National Basketball Players Association launched a Twitter campaign to rally fan support and to express union solidarity during the ongoing labor negotiations with the NBA. The two-fold message was summarized by two quick-hitting slogans: "Let us play" and "stand united."
New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony has added his own message to the discourse. After participating in the NBPA's campaign, Anthony offered an apology to NBA fans, tacking on a profane three-word slogan that is hard to argue with: "This **** sucks."
Here's a look at the tweet.
Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant and Miami Heat All-Star forward LeBron James also passed Anthony's message along to their followers.
Anthony later added: "It bothers me to hear people talk about things they know nothing about!!!"
His frustration doesn't arise from nowhere. There has been some fan backlash on Twitter to the NBPA's "let us play" campaign with some observers unclear that the labor dispute is the result of the NBA owners locking out the players instead of the players going out on strike. For this, Anthony really has no one to blame but his fellow union members. We're more than three months into the ongoing lockout. If the basics haven't been effectively communicated to the fans, the players can't really point the finger at anyone else about that. It's absolutely frustrating but educating the general public about the finer points of a labor negotiation is a long, costly and intricate process.
Blaming the fans, even for their own lack of knowledge, will get the players nowhere.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 1:18 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 1:51 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
With labor negotiations continuing and the possibility that the NBA cancels the first two weeks of its 2011-2012 regular season on Monday, National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher called on his union's members to show their solidarity and to appeal to public sentiment by launching a campaign on Twitter.
Fisher explained the concept in a letter to all players that was obtained by SI.com.
Chris Paul and I will also be utilizing our personal social networking channels to show the fans and you all, that we are united and want to get back to work under a fair deal. On Monday, Chris and I will tweet and post "LET US PLAY." This was used by the NFL players and many will be joining us on Monday and retweeting the same message to show their support for our players. I will also be using the hash tag #StandUnited after all my messages until this lockout is over. We invite you each to do the same. To show our unity and to remind the fans that this is not our choice and we would like to go back to work and play the game they love to support.Within hours, the message had been tweeted out by Fisher, Paul, Miami Heat All-Star guard Dwyane Wade, Heat All-Star forward LeBron James, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant. Among the many other NBA players to participate: Jarrett Jack, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Marquis Daniels, Eric Maynor, Devin Ebanks, Nazr Mohammed, Serge Ibaka, and Anthony Tolliver.
By early Monday afternoon, the phrase "LET US PLAY" was trending nationally in the United States on the social networking site.
Many players also posted messages pointing out that the NBA's current labor impasse is the result of a lockout by the league's owners rather than a strike by the league's players.
Back in January, the National Football Players Association launched a similar campaign in the midst of their labor negotiations with the NFL.