Editor’s Note:Rachel Weerasooriya is an Australian basketball fan with some serious opinions on the game, both in Australia’s NBL and on the current situation afflicting the NBA. Here she voices her opinions on the NBA labour struggle which has gridlocked the game that is loved by so many.
Put your hand up if the Mavs vs Heat game on June 12 was the last time you thought you’d watch an NBA game for a while? It almost seems like a distant memory now. The ups and downs of the lockout have been well covered, however some of the reasons behind it (due to the media ban in discussing said topics) aren’t all that obvious to the naked eye.
The overwhelming majority of fans on the NBA Facebook page and those commenting on media articles and the like, tend to centre around comments such as these:
“It’s just millionaires vs billionaires. The owners are greedy.”
“I’m boycotting the NBA when it comes back. Greedy players.”
It turns out that in June in particular, when the NBAPA and NBA started discussing topics (that would be later covered in much more significant detail) there were already a few massive red flags that would likely result in a lockout. Some knew that the last Finals game would be the last for a little while, and that the following season would either be shortened as a result, or not go ahead at all. The truth, as always, requires a lot more digging and cross-referencing than what is seen on the surface. It’s funny just how many subjects fall into that category, so allow me to drop some facts on your head. They tend to come in handy when engaging in a healthy debate.
One of the topics the players and owners have not been in agreement on is the BRI. Well, what is it? A shortened form of a guy called Brian? Not quite.
The BRI (Basketball Related Income) is essentially a split between the owners and players of who takes home how much revenue in the form of ticket sales, parking, broadcast rights, concessions, etc. The current split is 57- 43% in favour of the players. Yes, you heard that right. More on that later.
The BRI split, which was always going to be the Pandora’s box of negotiations to cover, and was left until last, is a tricky one. The owners say the BRI is based on gross revenue and that there are areas of the business where they have to spend money (that the players don’t) in order to make money; eg. promoting ticket sales. The owners are collectively reported to have lost $370 million last year — a far cry from the skewed pro-player articles being written which say they made a profit of $3 billion.
There are quite a few zeros difference between the two, and in two completely different directions.
The amount of fans in the States who have commented that they can’t afford to attend games as much as they once did with all the financial instability, also makes the perception of a billion dollar profit times three, a bit far-fetched.
This subject, and the ambitious anticipated success of it being in agreement by both sides, is the straw that broke the camel’s back on Monday.
Isn’t it pretty much only banks who charge fees even just to make eye contact, who are making tonnes of cash post-recession? In any other business on the planet, if you were losing $370 million in a year, you’d start downsizing and laying off staff. Pronto. Like Starbucks and several others. Ironic that, because in the real world, that’s exactly what’s been happening for the past couple of years and has affected the amount of people that can then spend frivolous entertainment money on things like basketball. Wow. I just had an epiphany and we just came back full circle.
(Actually, I lie – I knew this already. I just wish the players did.)
Prior to that, a hard salary cap was also a bone of contention. Owners wanted a protection buffer against smaller markets not being able to compete with the ridiculous salaries offered by the Lakers / Knicks / Bulls etc of the world. How are they meant to stay in the competition if they’re a smaller market, not part of the Hollywood-esque / NY-socialite hype, yet still have fans’ expectations of a fully functioning team to satisfy? But the players were dead against this too. Their argument? It’s not our fault if you overpay a guy. Wow. The hypocrisy is mind-blowing. Give us more money, but if it doesn’t work out for you, then ‘too bad, so sad.’ I still expect to have a job and a very expensive one at that, though. Hmmm…. Eek. Meanwhile, the owners continue to lose $1 million for every game that isn’t played.
Basketball God Michael Jordan once said as a player, that if you can’t afford your team you should sell it. Yes MJ, I will bow down to your on-court prowess, but sellers also require buyers for there to be a transaction, and at the right price. This is the same guy who as an owner this time, recently said “the system is broken.” Paying you $63 million in just your last two seasons alone with the Bulls will tend to break the system. Just a tad. It’s funny how so many people have to wait until they are in a situation that could have been completely preventable, before they can see the obvious. Either that or it will feed, clothe and sanitise a small African nation for a few years. Which one do you think is money better spent?
Bad overpriced deals set precedents and cause unrealistic player inflation. It’s not disputed that MJ was king of the court, but what we are discussing here is something else — a professional observation. I don’t know MJ and likely neither do you, so please don’t send me hate mail or call me a hater. Everybody loves to throw that term around these days — even when they don’t fully understand the subject matter beforehand. It’s mentally lazy. Part of the reasons why you can’t watch NBA right now isn’t because of what I’ve said. It’s because our beloved game is costing too much in too many different areas, for it to be played by people holding it to ransom. Too many people want too much. The game is the earth and the earth is being pillaged with no care for tomorrow.
The third main subject that has left you NBA-less (I’m going to copyright that) is the luxury tax. Sounds luxurious. Do you have visions of which colour your next Bentley will be? A new Dassault Falcon 7X perhaps? Pfft… that’s for plebs. The luxury tax is none of these. Sorry. It was fun for a moment though, hey? It’s when teams go over the cap by a pre-set level in how much they pay their players. The owners, even though some go significantly over the cap and others don’t, were even in agreement amongst themselves that under the new CBA, only those who don’t go over the tax threshold should get money back. ie, if you break the tax threshold, you forfeit your share of tax money. The players disagreed that it would be a good move. <insert awkward moment here>
There are other trivial-in-comparison issues that have collectively resulted in a slightly more boring winter for America, and a slightly more boring summer for us here in Australia, such as the mid-level exception, qualifying offers, escrow, sign-and-trades, trade exceptions, rookie contracts, annual raises and salary cap holds. And let’s not even get into the fact that some NBA coverage would have meant not having to stay up until midnight to watch the Nocturnal Basketball League to get a decent fix, because without League Pass, or NBA Lockout 2K11 not coming to a PlayStation near you, you wouldn’t be getting any game coverage anyway.
So where do things sit now?
Up until Monday, there was a guaranteed $4 billion in guaranteed contracts protected by the NBA. As of Monday, the players decided to reject the NBA’s offers and file a Disclaimer of Interest — which means the Union, on paper, is walking away from the players. This is less serious than the Decertification which was being discussed, where the players walk away from the Union.
That of course, then allows for an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA. Yes, suing them. The hand that feeds them. If that were to happen, and the Courts deem the lockout to be illegal, the players could in theory, be open to collecting billions of dollars and possibly bringing about the death of the NBA. Imagine how many more mansions, bottles of Blue Agave Tequila and Bugatti Veyron Super Sports Versions could be bought with that. How about another diamond encrusted watch? Buy a casino and save yourself the commute? Is Ambani’s Antilla still vacant. Woohoo — party time! Ugh.
But for now, with the actions taken on Monday, the players are on their own, with the Union having given up their rights to negotiate between the players and owners.
The season isn’t exactly cancelled at this point, but when negotiation shifts to litigation, things take considerable time and expense to unravel.
While discussing these sorts of subjects recently, in varying depths, quite a few things are pretty obvious to me:
- The players’ reluctant offer to drop their split of BRI from 57% to 52.5% appears to be splitting hairs. The owners want a 50- 50 split and why shouldn’t they- they bear the brunt of the risk, but the players said no way. It almost seems as though they don’t care whether owners can afford to keep a team, despite the fact that if we don’t have owners absorbing hits in the basketball side of the business to be supplemented by their external businesses, then who cares. Seriously. The players should care- that’s their source of income. Duh?
If the owners are showing some overdue financial restraint, should they be crucified for that when by doing so, it means they can continue to pay their players massive salaries now, and in the future years to come? Does anybody have Stoudemire’s digits to show him, and other players, some financial restraint also?
- If the current generation of greed isn’t paid enough in the NBA, do you really think all those up and coming kids in college, fringe players or ones playing in Europe will decide to give up their trade? Hardly. Shove over and make some room. They will take less money too and anything is better than nothing right now.
- Businesses are suffering the world over, even for the owners. Players should think about where that money comes from and what people go through to hand it over, for it to be spent on Stoudemire’s fifth mansion, and complain he’s about to blow $20 million this year. If you can’t live the rest of your life on that kind of money, let alone one year, there is something seriously wrong with you. Get a financial planner dude.
- 60% of players go broke within the first five years of retirement. The old adage that players have to make as much money as they can because their careers have a short shelf-life, makes me want to yell out a swear word starting with the letter F. If you’re saving the bucketloads of money you’re getting paid, and not spending it all at nightclubs, etc, then what excuse do you have for going broke? People comfortably retire on a lot — oops, I mean a L-O-T less money than that, so perhaps it’s time to look at what you’re wasting your money on. Again, get a financial planner. Best money I ever spent. That, plus $5 for Angry Birds for when I have the time to play it. Total bargain. Over 500 million people have downloaded it and not once did they decide to get greedy and decide that they should try to get more money for it once it became popular. Hint, hint.
(Actually, forget the hints- I just want to spank some of you…. with a chainsaw)
- Even if the owners were making a profit (which they’re not) how many of you could go to your boss in 2005 and say (a) I want a higher percentage of the profits than you; (b) I think you made more money last year, so now I want a higher cut of that as well; (c) Still keep your job at the end of the conversation; (d) Take them to court over it?
I don’t know about you, but my boss would laugh and tell me to get back to work, or at best, I would get a cupcake. I do like cupcakes though. Poppy Cakes in Fortitude Valley are my favourite. They make them New York style ones. Scrum-diddly-umptious.
- Can players even financially afford to take a year off, let alone pay hefty legal fees in a court case that will be dragged out, when their disposable income is already through the roof?
Why can’t they be more like Bogut — he’s a good boy who doesn’t make a big spectacle of himself with a big ego. He’s either giving money away, at the beach, playing Mario, playing Uno or sipping coffee, etc.
- The players say they play for the love of the game and the money is a bonus. Get back to work then and show some gratitude for how incredibly fortunate you are, compared to 99% of the global population. People work really hard to give that money to your owners, so that they can pass it to you, only for many of you to treat with a lack of appreciation and disrespect. Cleaners, restaurants, bars, etc, are all dependent on that money to put food on the table and put their kids in school. Come on guys — get some humanity.
(Do they realise there’s an Occupy movement worldwide which is protesting greed? It’s hard to sympathise when people are getting laid-off, taking survival jobs beneath them, living in cardboard boxes by the side of the freeway, or committing suicide. Oh, that’s right — they’re not taking an active interest in the world, they’re too busy bickering and the media appear allergic to covering the Movement anyway — unless it’s to spread negative publicity. Carry on).
- Do the players even understand along the way what it is they are saying no to, or do they just run with the last words of whoever was in their ear? Are they getting their info from their agents? *shudder*
- As I said last night on a discussion thread:
“I get the feeling the players ASSUMED everybody would be on their side.
Now that the NBA have been smart about being transparent with their offers which they listed on a publicly available pdf yesterday, once people do their research, they begin to see that the proposals the NBA offered were quite fair.
This has put heat back on the players to justify what it is they think all this is going to achieve.
The one thing I think is unanimous though- the fans are the ones who lose in the end.
They fund the companies that make the owners rich, then they also pay again to put their butts on seats- they pay twice essentially.
But they are not getting games and they have done what was expected of them- gone to as many games as they could financially afford- keeping in mind that for them the game is entertainment, not their livelihoods.
The fans have kept up their end of the bargain.
I am not seeing players playing for the love.
It sucks that the game in Australia — even since reform — is nothing more than a gold painted turd, but to have the NBA going through this is just really bad for the game all-round.”
I also believe that the players are so caught in the moment and adrenalin of what they are doing that they perhaps wrongly believe they will get a resolution as quick as the NFL did last year. This is also a global game — the ramifications for the sport’s reputation and future earning capacity are huge. The NBA as we know is the pinnacle of basketball terrain. It therefore deserves to be treated with care, respect and accountable fore-thought for how the game is perceived — not by the converted, but the outside eye. What’s going on looks really bad. If kids are aspiring to this level of narcissism, greed, short-sightedness and ignorance of others’ legitimate suffering, then we have some major problems.
- The players, and Derek Fisher in particular, claim they are taking this action for the benefit of future players and generations. When were they consulted? Are they having words put in their mouths to prove a point? I’d like to think that future players have noticed their parents living close to the poverty line, and that a starting first year rookie salary of $473,604 — considerably more than the average person who would be lucky to currently have that much in their superannuation today (considering there will be no more pensions) would be quite chuffed with that figure. After all, their accommodation, flights, generous meal allowance and free stuff they’re frequently offered, means they have, or should have, few expenses.
As I’ve said for a while now, being able to earn half a million dollars playing sport — something you supposedly love, is a luxury, not an entitlement.
- Even the proposed Melbourne exhibitions All-Star games which disappeared as quickly as they were spruiked, were met with a combined mix of excitement and repulsion.
By Derek Fisher’s argument, none of the big names should have been invited- should they have sent the players who make up the bulk of “low salaries” in the NBA?
Or were Kobe, D-Rose, Chris Paul and Co planning on coming for free, so that they could pass the profits to their fellow underlings? If so, I take my hat off to them as that would be selfless — a trait we often don’t see around basketball, particularly in Australia. If they weren’t planning to do that, then their arguments are somewhat invalid.
- We just don’t live in a high disposable income world anymore- many countries including America are still trying to work out how to recover from the recession. If you dispute this, turn on the news or pick up a newspaper. Players have plenty of idle time right now (even more than usual) so there’s no excuse not to take notice of the world you live in.
- Basketball, or the NBA in particular, had the opportunity to be a nice simple distraction from the growing pressures of everyday life. Instead, it has imploded. It had always been the sanctuary from our own multitude of on-going problems within our own League. The reform we were overdue for, after years of embarrassment, is little more than an unused unimplemented theory. It’s kids marking their own test papers and by all accounts, that will probably never change until those who believe the sport owes them something are eradicated, and fresh ideas and a business sense with professional people are brought in. Skills on the court don’t mean they are transferable to business — especially a jump into upper management level with zero lower or middle management level skills that have been honed and assessed against KPI, etc for many years.
Players are good at playing. Business minds are good at business. Butchers are good with meat. Bakers are good with bread. If you want bread, you don’t go to your butcher, or to people who’ve had a long tradition of screwing things up and learning nothing. Or insisting on dealing with those who have self-serving agendas, undermine others and are part of a peanut gallery of insincere fools. Unless you’re the NBL or have them in your pocket.
The NBA was meant to distract us from all that garbage, but for now, it is dead.
It’s time to give the hero-worship a rest, and see things for what they are, not for how we’d prefer to look at them. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got — as the saying goes. But everybody stands to lose on this one, and more often than not, it’s the fans. When the last CBA was agreed upon, nobody had a crystal ball to predict recessions and public unrest of financial greed by the time the next CBA was due to be negotiated. And like in any negotiation, you never entirely get what you want. That’s why they call it a negotiation. What have the players conceded, apart from sacrificing the actual game itself? Here I thought it’s everyone’s game. Turns out it’s not…. Just a catchy catch cry cloaked in failure / old heads with old ideas who love shortcuts.
Try not to shoot the messenger though. It’s way uncool.
Fact: $4 billion of guaranteed contracts exist in the NBA.
Fact: Everyday people are living below the poverty line- losing their jobs, homes, sanity etc yet still try to support the massive wealth of athletes, in comparison to their own.
Fact: $8 billion would resolve the world’s hunger and sanitation problems.
Fact: America spends $8 billion on war every month.
Am I missing something here?
I love the game but I don’t love it this much.
#BackwardsPrioritiesUpAssesMuch #ImplosionIsNear #IsItSurprisingTheOccupyMovementExists #SomethingIsntRightHere