Posted on: July 18, 2011 10:01 am
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Posted on: July 18, 2011 9:24 am
Posted by Matt Moore
So here's a quick question.
Where did the money go? No, I mean, seriously, where did the money go?
The NBA is in the midst of what may end up being its longest lockout in league history. The owners are claiming losses of up to $300 million and attributing it almost entirely to the players (and, apparently, staff as they've become fire-happy). But this isn't the dark days of the late 70's and early 80's, where games are shown on replay late at night and the league is skating a fine line between survival and bankruptcy. The league isn't trying to find its niche. The NBA is one of the largest sports entities in the world.
How about a $7.4 billion media deal ($930 million a year) extended in 2007? How about $50 million a year in revenue from China alone? How about all that money from concessions, sponsorships, ad sales on the floor and in every spot you can find in every arena? How about suite seats, custom lunchboxes, jersey sales, deals with some of the biggest companies in the sports world like Gatorade, Nike, and AutoTrader.com (that last one was a joke). How about NBATV, which exists on most cable packages. How about League Pass Broadband, League Pass Mobile, League Pass Digital Calculator (again, last one, jokey-joke)? How about BRI being estimated at $3.8 billion for 2010-2011 alone?
No, for real now, where did all the money go?
Well that gets to the heart of the NBA lockout. The owners believe not only that the players' slice of that revenue pie, the 57 percent of the $3.8 billion (Berger estimates it at $2.17 billion) is what does the damage. From there, it's costs. Costs, costs, costs that pull them under, and all of those costs are things which they feel are not a result of their own decision making, but of all these greedy people wanting too big a cut of what they feel is their pie.
Before my blood gets boiling, go check out how I feel about those non-player cuts of those "greedy people."
Here's an interesting question. Reports came out last week from the New York Times and Forbes about how the NBA had cooked the books. Those reports earned a swift rebuttal from the league regarding their accuracy. Naturally, the Times was pretty skeptical about the league's denial of the claims. It should be noted that in the pieces discussing how profit/loss was estimated, one blogger with a financial background took the reports to task independently. I would explain it to you, but my head would explode.
Lost in all the shuffle about how the losses are calculated, what the ticket sales revenue is, or other complex accounting claims which would pretty much bore you to tears, there was one factor which was overlooked by most of the traditional media outlets. The "mystery meat."
Tom Ziller of SBNation.com wrote a piece earlier this month outlining an intriguing element included in the Forbes data (which may, or may not be Ziller fashion, the man made a chart so you can process it more easily. Republished with permission here.
It's that "Other" percentage that has Ziller so up in a huff. From SBNation.com:
In 2007, 2008 and 2009, "other expenses" grew more than revenue or payroll did. From 2006 to 2007, revenue and payroll each grew 6.6 percent. Given the NBA's claimed losses, non-payroll expenses grew 9.8 percent between those seasons. That's a massive uptick in comparison. The gap exists in 2008 and 2009, as well. Strangely -- very strangely -- the 30 NBA teams actually shrunk non-payroll expenses in 2010, despite modest upticks in revenue and payroll. Non-salary expenses had been growing at 4-10 percent over the previous years ... and the NBA cut it by almost 1 percent out of the blue.via NBA Lockout: Have Owners Spent Themselves Into This Mess? - SBNation.com.
Allright, so the question's got to be asked. What's in that "Other" percentage? Maybe it was partially those employees the league's been laying off that we've been complaining about. But if so, why did it take them so long to figure it out? And if that kind of problem is so big, shouldn't that be the focus of the league and not the players? Maybe they're unavoidable expenses. But if that's the case, why werent' those factored into the last CBA negotiation? The questions go on and on.
Now, the League's going to say it's irrelevant. They say the data isn't wholly accurate, therefore no conclusions can be gleaned from it. Which is fine. Setting aside the Times' point that there's no way to confirm the league's claim that the data is inaccurate without the league releasing its own data (which will happen on a day when Satan has to break out a parka due to a severe temperature drop), the point's still going to be there regardless of how the data is formulated. Where did the money go? How did the NBA make this much, and wind up losing it?
You would think the massive amount of income from the profitable teams would cover it. And you would be wrong for thinking so, so sayeth the league.
From the NBA's statement:
The Knicks, Bulls and Lakers combined net income for 2009-10 does not cover the losses of the 23 unprofitable teams. Our net loss for that year, including the gains from the seven profitable teams, was -$340 million.via NBA responds to NYTimes.com blog based on inaccurate info | NBA.com.
So despite a system that allows big market teams to set their own prices, including what can only be considered an obscene new deal for the Los Angeles Lakers, your costs are still so high that you can't make a profit despite all that?
The league responds, "Of course not! Player salaries are too high!"
As if it were that simple. As if that accounts for why there isn't enough to go around, or why we still saw opulance this season and every season. Are we really to believe that the owners made every decision in good conscience and the system simply wouldn't allow them to profit? That they designed a system that denies their ability to profit?
If we're going to take the stance that failing teams get to fail (as the current revenue sharing system allows), shouldn't we take the same ideals for the league's approach before we start backing their demands to simply be gifted what they want?
These are the questions you ask as the lockout only really gets started, that leave you perplexed about why we're here in the first place. And if we want to get to the bottom of those questions, there's only one way out. for the league to reveal its financials. They're under no obligation to do so. They have every right to keep their data to themselves as private businesses, and to simply keep swatting at these reports that pop up like gnats. But if they really want to tell us that they deserve the support of the media and fans, they need to be open and honest about what's happening and why.
Otherwise we're just watching kids get sick in the cafeteria, munching on mystery meat and blaming the salad.
Posted on: July 16, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: July 16, 2011 2:22 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Officially, Deron Williams has signed with Besiktas. You know how I know? He tweeted it. I think that's sort of how things get made "official" in these days.
But there could be some early complications. According to Draft Express, Williams' new team Besiktas has had its accounts frozen because of a connection in some soccer-match fixing scandal. Via Reuters:
Though he's signed to play there, Williams does have an opt-out clause, and some believe it's a stretch he'll ever actually play a game in Turkey. This little situation, however, adds a whole new angle to that. If Besiktas can't pay him, no way Williams goes abroad.
And it's a potential red flag to other players who are thinking about making the transition. Josh Childress already talked about all the headaches and hassles that come with playing overseas, and this is an example. Things just don't run as smoothly.
The basketball team hasn't had any kind of charges brought against it and isn't connected to this scandal, but the money all comes from the same place. And the money is obviously what's most important.
If Williams isn't going to get his pay, no way he's going to play.
Posted on: July 15, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2011 6:59 pm
How can NBA owners win the public relations battle during the NBA lockout? Posted by Ben Golliver.
On Thursday, Matt Moore took a look at how NBA players can curry favor from the general public during the ongoing NBA lockout. His plan included circling the wagons, being honest and educating fans and taking the high road. All great ideas for any negotiation, especially one as high-profile and public as the NBA's.
With the players' PR plan in place, how about the owners? What can this group of billionaires due to help gain support, if not sympathy, for their plight?
Let's start off by acknowledging that this is an impossible task. The common man cannot relate to the billionaire. It's impossible. The gap is too wide, the lifestyles are too different, the realities are too disparate. Likewise, the billionaire, no matter how hard he tries, cannot put himself in the common man's shoes. Once your income hits the eighth or ninth digit, a bubble forms around you that is impervious to real, everyday struggles. When people are hired to pick up your dry cleaning or answer your telephone or manage your Twitter account, it's over. There's no going back.
The goal for the NBA owners, then, shouldn't be unrealistic. They don't need to come off like Santa Claus. Instead, they just need to appear a little bit less like Montgomery Burns. Right now, the general air from ownership and the league is that it doesn't much care for the public relations side of this battle. It has remained very quiet, refused to open its books publicly and responded to only a few accusations with prepared statements. Otherwise, pretty much total silence.
In that vacuum, the players have shined. They've put together funny spoof commercials, shown off their skills in pick-up games and camp across the globe, continued their massive presence on social networking sites and done a very good job of communicating their desire to not miss any games. Put all of that together, and the owners have a tough uphill battle to climb.
Here are five things they should do to get started on the public relations war:
1. Pledge To Protect All League Jobs
The No. 1 complaint against any professional sports team owner who locks out players is that he is greedy. That's the No. 1 complaint because it's pretty much always true. There's no good, direct answer to that question. The owners have made it clear they want more money, significantly more money, and that makes them look greedy.
A good work-around solution: Do what you can to make the players look greedy. Put all the pressure and attention on players' salaries -- they make millions to play a game -- while doing whatever you can to make yourself look like a philanthropist. Encourage your teams to increase their efforts in the community. More camps! More hospital visits by team employees! More everything! Then, to cap it all off, pledge to protect all jobs -- within the team and at the league level -- throughout the duration of any work stoppage.
See what that would do? It would isolate the players, making them look like the bad guys. "We're all over here doing our jobs and protecing our hard-working employees and their families while you guys make so much money it threatens to put us out of business!" The general public highly values loyalty and commends those who put their employees' interests before their own.
Oh, wait. Wait. You're telling me the NBA announced less than two weeks into the lockout that it's laying off 11% of its workforce and then said it was due to a desire to cut costs? In other words, because the league wanted to keep more of the money it was generating? Oh boy. We're off to a rocky start here.
2. Don't Make Idle Threats
Appearing tough is very, very important during a negotiation. You can't blink first. You've got to make it clear that every word that you speak is to be taken seriously and every demand you make must be met or the entire deal is at stake. Those are basic negotiating principles. Whatever you do, owners, do not make idle threats. If you say that you will take an action if something happens, you have to take that action when that something happens, or you look both soft and like you're blowing smoke. Your credibility gets crushed and the other side has no real incentive to take any of your other demands seriously.
Unfortunately, the NBA has failed this one too. As soon as the lockout went into effect on July 1, the league made it very clear that a gag order was in place. No team employees were to make public reference to a current player or they would risk a $1 million fine. In addition, the NBA scrubbed its website of references to current players.
Granted, that's a fairly ridiculous and petty decision, but it was their decision. What's happened since the gag order went into effect is even worse. Minnesota Timberwolves president David Kahn mentioned multiple players during a press conference streaming live on his team's official website. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle mentioned multiple players during a radio interview. Both were clear violations of the supposed gag order and yet the NBA has tap-danced around whether it will fine the offenders as threatened. Guess what? Until someone gets fined, and fined big, violations of the gag order will continue ad nauseum. Each time a coach or team executive accidentally steps out of line, the NBA looks less and less in control and united.
In the public's eye, they start to look like they're full of it. Why should the Average Joe believe the NBA is losing millions of dollars a year if the league won't follow through on its promise to fine people? Say what you mean and mean what you say. Hammer the offenders or offer a really, really good explanation for why you didn't. Otherwise, the impression is that you're tough-talking bullies who don't need to be taken seriously.
3. Take The Lead On Meetings
This is an easy one. 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.
4. Use The Past As A Guide For The Future
The NBA just completed a Collective Bargaining Agreement that both sides, obviously, signed off on. The owners chose to lock the players out because they felt an overhaul was necessary. Other than repeating a desire to guarantee a profit to its teams and increase competitive balance, the owners have not done a good job of communicating exactly what portions of the framework need to be reworked, and why. An important ingredient in this communication is explaining what didn't go according to the owners' plan at the time.
While the league has maintained that it won't conduct negotiations in public, finding a way to present the flaws or unexpected outcomes from the previous deal would help the general public have a much better idea of where they are coming from. Just about everyone can relate to changing interest rates on their mortgage, car loan or credit cards. No one likes to pay more after the fact than they were expecting, especially if it's something that is out of their control. The owners would be wise to own up and lay out the areas where that occurred. "We didn't anticipate this" or "This wound up costing way more than projections" or "This competitior came in and influenced this revenue projection" or whatever.
Lay those out as mistakes or needs for correction. Then, and only then, provide the remedies and explain why those remedies protect the league from future risk. Belts have been tightened across the country. People have spent more conservatively on discretionary items. Connect your goals to that behavior and you've got a real chance to make some headway.
5. Paint A Pretty Picture
As any GM worth his salts knows, you absolutely must sell hope. There needs to be a pot of gold over this rainbow. All the dreary talk about losing money gets people down. Nobody cares if you're losing money. Again, you've got to flip this for fans. What is in it for them?
The owners must start painting the dream. How great will the NBA be in three years if you get your way? How many homes will be watching games then compared to now? How many teams that would have had to move will be safe in their current locations? How many teams won't have to be contracted? How many jobs will be saved and/or restored? How many hours of community service can be added? What cool new events can be added to All-Star Weekend? What preseason showcase tours will pop up on the schedule? What interactive TV or internet programming will now be possible?
Sell. Sell. Sell. You made millions selling products or services. Do not stop selling the future of your league in your vision. People want to hear it. Just make sure it sounds better than the status quo for someone besides yourselves.
When it's all over, offer the fans a blatant kickback. Discounted tickets or jerseys. Public autograph sessions. Free NBA League Pass for an extra few weeks. Whatever. Have a goodwill gesture on tap because, regardless of how long the lockout extends, you'll need it.
Posted on: July 15, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 1:17 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Hey Spurs, listen up. Here's a good reason to make sure this lockout doesn't wipe out an entire season: Because Manu Ginobili, who has two years left on his contract, said he'll probably retire after those two seasons.
So lose this year and you miss out on 50 percent of what you might have left with Manu. At least that's what he told an Argentinian website:
“The truth is that I have set the date of my retirement, but I have two years left on this contract in San Antonio, and I will reach age 36. I think it may be an appropriate age to stop playing,” Ginobili stated. “I never had the desire to play in the country and retire at home. I always thought about retiring at the highest level.”The reason that last part is important is because there was some speculation that Ginobili, 34, would finish his NBA contract and then close his career in Europe or maybe his native Argentina. But, obviously, he's not too keen on that idea.
There's been a lot of talk about the Spurs' window closing. Talk that originated from Tony Parker, really. But it's true. The Spurs don't have a lot of time left to win with the current core. By the sounds of it, it might just be two years. Or one, depending on how things shake out.
The NBA without Manu. Tough to imagine. Don't make me miss out on one of those years. That'll be tough to forgive, NBA.
Via Project Spurs
Posted on: July 15, 2011 12:50 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 1:10 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Add another marginal NBA player who has signed to play in Europe. This one is Sasha Vujacic, who may be more famous as Mr. Sharapova than for being a good basketball player.
According to Euroleague.net, Vujacic has signed with Anadolu Efes Istanbul for one year with an option for a second. No word in the report on whether Vujacic has an opt-out clause. He is a free agent once this lockout ends, so he's free to go and play wherever he wants without risking his contract because of an injury.
Vujacic averaged 11.4 points per game in 56 games last season and spent six seasons with the Lakers, winning two titles. He's a solid player and definitely a NBA rotation guy for someone. Not an earth-shattering signing, but definitely a guy that would otherwise be playing in the NBA.
Of course, his Nets teammate Deron Williams also signed in Turkey just a couple of weeks ago.
Vujacic, a native of Slovenia, obviously understands what it's like playing in Europe having played in Italy before being picked in the first round by the Lakers in 2004. In Europe, I'm sure Vujacic will play a much bigger role for whatever team he's on and maybe can make good on the ridiculous claim he made last season that he could average 30 points a game if he wanted to.
If you can't do that in Turkey, you definitely can't do it in the NBA.
Posted on: July 15, 2011 2:09 am
Edited on: July 15, 2011 9:38 am
Posted by Matt Moore
Unless you started covering it from the beginning, which removes your frame of reference, spend enough time around the NBA and you'll learn the real meaning of "opulence." It's everywhere. From the cars the players drive, to their jewelry, to the locker rooms where they spend a grand total of about four hours every night. It's in the banquet halls and the hotels reserved and the equipment used. It's in the gift bags for friends and media, the free food, the superstar (or Lenny Kravitz) performances, the pyrotechnics, everywhere. It's astounding. Everyone stays at the nicest clubs, eats at the nicest restaurants, travels in the nicest cars and buses.
It's in even the tiniest things. At the NBA Finals, along with All-Star Weekend, the NBA gives away gift bags for the media. A little thank you to say "We appreciate you bringing attention to our business, even though half the time you're jumping on our mistakes like cobras on an injured mouse." This year it was a simple wireless mouse and a mousepad that has the Finals logo on it. A schlocky little thing that was still pretty nice when you think about it being free. I kept it mostly because I wanted to give it to my newborn son when he is older to say "Your father got this at the first Finals he covered."
Tomorrow I'm taking it to the nearest charitable donations joint and dropping it off. Because now it's just a reminder of how opulence wasted has cost 114 people their jobs tonight when it shouldn't have. It's nothing but a guilty reminder of how the mismanagement of resources and revenue can wind up costing real people their jobs, jobs they need. All I can think about is the stacks and stacks of mouses and mousepads, most of which were most likely never claimed, sitting there on a table. How much could have been saved without their purchase, transport, or handling? It's not just a trinket, it's a guilt trip after what the league has decided this week.
From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:
Word of the planning session came as the league laid off 114 employees from its New York, New Jersey and international offices this week in what it described as an ongoing cost-cutting effort aimed at shedding $50 million in expenses. The layoffs represented 11 percent of the league workforce and were felt across multiple divisions. The NBA also closed its offices in Tokyo and Paris.via League, union to hold first post-lockout meeting - CBSSports.com.
These aren't stats on a page, figures tossed around in an analysis. These are real people. Most of whom probably badly needed this job and unless you know of another professional basketball league happening in the states right now, probably are going to have a hard time making a seamless transition elsewhere.
Now in this economy, that should be easy to forgive. Even as there are signs of a slow recovery, inching along at a snail's pace, that the corner has been turned and there are brighter days ahead, everyone has had to tighten their belt. It should be easy to forgive the NBA for having to go through the same pains as everyone else. But they haven't. They're not struggling to find a consumer base. They're not dealing with dwindling income. They're not drowning as their target audience shifts towards something else. No, instead, attention hasn't been this high since Jordan graced the court. Ratings are up and showing no signs of coming back down. The league is interesting, and marketable, and boy, is it revenue-inducing.
Merchandising is reaching an all-time high. In 2004, they were projected to make $3.3 billion in merchandising sales. The league earns $900 million from their television contracts, and even that's undersold. David Stern reportedly made $23 million last year. Even if he didn't, he made a whole lot more than those 114 people make combined. Eddy Curry made a little short of $12 million last year. Mike Dunleavy Jr. $11 million. I'm not arguing they weren't paid market value. I'm not sayingany of them are overpaid. I'm saying with all of thism oney floating around, with coaches being fined every night, how do you lose the money to pay for 114 people all of a sudden?
There are probably some executives included in the cuts. And the employees were given severance packages. But this was unnecessary. 114 people are out of a job right now, because a professional sports league in 2011 that had its biggest year in a decade, one of the biggest ever, can't figure out how to properly manage its expenses?
I worked for two non-profit organizations during the recession. Both went through the same problems as all non-profits have during the recession. It's not exactly a booming industry. But they planned. They held back. They dipped into reserves. They went into furloughs if they had to, but they avoided firing people. Because this isn't a game, which is what the owners have made this into. The league says this was not impacted by the lockout, a theory exactly zero people believe.
Don't have Lenny Kravitz play at All-Star Weekend during the introductions. Boom, you've just saved five people's job, counting the pyro, production value, and various expenses for travel. Cut back on a few league sponsored parties at All-Star Weekend. Don't cater the bargaining sessions. Hold them at a Motel 6 by the airport (that'll get the deal done faster, I promise you). Do any of these things and you've saved jobs. Jobs people need, who are depending on them. What about all that money from finding Mark Cuban and David Kahn and Phil Jackson? I understand that money went to charity. Couldn't that money have been saved to keep a position? With as much money as is thrown around the NBA, couldn't someone, somewhere have socked away enough cash to let people keep working at their jobs?
While we're at it, why don't we throw in all the money David Stern should have fined Donald Sterling over the past few decades. Wouldn't that have taken the sting out a little bit?
Shane Battier won't be getting his paycheck in the fall. Which means if he doesn't play abroad, or take another position, or find some endorsement money, he'll have to dip into his mountainous reserves. The same for every player. Even the lowest level guys are looking at things getting tight and possibly having to sell one of their multiple cars.
The people that were laid off this week by the NBA, the 114? They're out of a job, now. They didn't have to be, but here they are. Maybe they deserved to be. Maybe their positions were utterly useless. If that's the case, why not just reassign them? Have them work on creating efficiency plans or, I don't know, creative ways to end the lockout. Maybe they were just lazy. Maybe 11 percent of the NBA's total workforce really was just lazy and redundant. But doesn't that reflect the people at the top and their organizational structure more than it does the people who were actually affected by this?
The NBA has a right to run its business towards profit and to act in its own self-interest. But to trot out their opulence time and time agian, to splurge on so many little things that when you add them up it looks like one of those trash mountains from "Wall-E," it's not only off-putting, it's downright nauseating. David Stern has probably frozen his salary during this lockout that they've seen coming for two years. Maybe if he'd started sooner, those 114 people would still have their jobs.
The owners are grumpy from greed. The players are indignant out of a perceived necessity. The fans are angry on principle and just want their game back.
And 114 people are out of a job tonight, 114 jobs which could have been saved with a little more restraint, a little more compromise, a little more consideration.
Just like the lockout.
Posted on: July 14, 2011 4:49 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 10:56 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Imagine you're the players of the NBA. You've known this was coming, you've hoped it could be avoided, you've even made a few compromises to try and avoid it. But here you are, locked out of the league you tried desperately for years to get into, staring at whatever the Istanbul version of Craigslist is. You know it's going to be a long fight, but it's one you're committed to winning (you even had T-Shirts made and everything!).
And while you understand that the people, the fans, the public have no real bearing on who ends up winning this thing, that neither side is going to look good in this lockout, every little bit helps. So how exactly are you going to get the public's support on your side of this ugly little spat with the powers that be?
Here's a five-step plan.
Step 1: Circle the wagons. And that means wrangling a few wild horses. You want the public to sympathize with you? Playing up the human interest angle isn't going to work here. You make zillions of dollars playing basketball while most people work in an office with a coffee machine that makes sludge and a terrible boss who likes baseball or something. But you don't need to engender sympathy, you just need to engender respect. And that means staying out of trouble.
It's the offseason. Guys aren't even under the leashes of their respective teams during workouts or events. But if the players want the public to take them seriously as a group of professionals fighting to protect their earning potential and wage-earning, they need to represent themselves as such. And respected professionals aren't arrested. When that happens respected professionals become disrespected (often former) professionals. DUI, assault, even things like speeding in extremely fast cars, all of these things contribute to an image the NBPA needs to keep at bay. This goes for every member of the union, regardless of age, race, or background. It's one thing when a player's irresponsible actions hurt himself, but now it can damage the collective efforts of the union.
Whether it's applying pressure to the right people, making personal pleas, or just downright babysitting, the player's union needs to make sure its athletes come across as suit-wearing professionals who are being prevented from going out and doing their job. That's harmed if it looks like they're having the time of their life, blowing the money they supposedly need to protect and getting in trouble.
Step 2: Spin the Euro bottle. Right now players escaping to Europe seems like a vacation. Fans feel like their favorite players (or Zaza Pachulia) are skipping out to go make money somewhere else while they're stuck without a team. The players need to first commit to who's going to go and who's not going to go. A decent combination of stars and role players should go, with players who have planned well enough to survive the lockout on their own staying home. Then the trick is to push this publicly as something they were forced to do. "Well, I need to play and I'm not allowed to here, so I went elsewhere." It should be made about staying in shape for their careers (for the NBA fans) and not about the money. In fact, players should pledge a certain amount of their income to charity, and a certain amount to a collective fund for the union.
The worst thing that can happen is this looking like a selfish avoidance of the problems here in the States. Every player is affected by the lockout, and every player should be working to bring it to an end. Pitching their European defection as an effort to do just that, to get the owners off their gulag-prison-guard-like stance, is the best way to go about it. Don't pretend your "family needs to eat" is the reason you're going. Make it about basketball.
Step 3: Level with the fans. A certain amount of PR in ugly situations like this involves saying things and taking stances you know make you sound like a moron. But those are often things to keep you out of trouble, a defensive position. What the players need to do is capitalize on the fact that they were the ones locked out, not put on strike, and level with the fans about how this looks.
When I asked Kevin Love about the lockout earlier this week, he said that fans "don't want to see billionaire owners and millionaire players bickering over money." This was a golden quote that could be dangerous if Love distanced himself from the rest of the union. But he didn't. He's firmly behind the union's efforts, but recognizing that people aren't going to feel sorry for the players, no matter how upset they are with the league's approach.
Being honest with the fans and acknowledging that there's a certain amount of ridiculousness to this process considering the amount of money involved doesn't hurt the players' case. They're not asking for change. They're just asking for things to stay the same. That should remain firmly in their wheelhouse of approach.
Step 4: Educate as much as possible. Your average person is going to be offended that players are doing anything but being grateful for the money they earn playing a game. Once again we return to the fact that so many people's jobs suck. It's offensive that someone who's life is awesome is saying his life isn't awesome enough.
So instead, focus on putting things in terms people can understand. "If your boss walked in one morning, even though your company has experienced record growth and critical success in the past year, and asked you to take a significant paycut, how would you react?" While spending time and resources on investing the public isn't going to win you anything with the players, it does remove something from the owners. The players aren't directly beholden to ticketholders and sponsors. The owners are. So the players need to spend some time to make the average season ticket holder understand that the players want to play, they aren't being allowed to.
No one needs to hear about BRI, or the difference in a hard cap. Just make it plain, that "billionaire owners made poor decisions and now say they want more money, and they want it from us, their workers, while they've fired their staffs until they get what they want." That's the reality of what's going on with the owners, and it paints them in about as bad a light as possible. If you really want to get in the trenches, release some information about how much some of these owners are actually worth, compared the amount of money they're squabbling with the players over.
But above all, follow Step 5.
Step 5. Be the better men.
This "negotiation" process quickly turned into one of prideful bickering and overdramatic gestures. The owners refuse to provide a counterproposal. The players release statements about how ridiculous the owners' proposal is. The owners bully up and take a hard line. The players show up in synchronized t-shirts. The owners let Stern do the talking. Kevin Garnett yells in a meeting.
This is not how business should be conducted.
This is not "Norma Rae." There's no moral high ground to be won. This is a business deal between two entities, both of which are doing exceptionally well in life. The players have every right to stand and fight for what they believe they deserve and protect the future earning potential of those in their profession. Anyone would do that, from plummers, to software designers, to middle management, to media members. No one wants to be sold up river or sell future people who will share their position up the river.
But behave with superior class. Don't get dragged into the mud. Peel back on the rhetoric. The public isn't sold that the players are greedy, they just haven't been sold on their requests being reasonable yet. By being the bigger men and taking the high road, they let the owners hang themselves by looking ridiculous and petulant, all the while the union is earning income through exhibition games and European contracts. The world's a smaller place, which means voices can carry more loudly. All the more reason to speak quietly, but firmly, and simply let the owners' red-faced bombastic approach peter out as the tide turns against them.
The union needs to be vigilant, reasonable, and clear. Do those things and their chances of putting the pressure back on the owners to crack will improve significantly.
Check back tomorrow for Part Two of our series and how the owners can crush the union's public support.