Wednesday, October 26, 2011

HEAT Check: Occupy the NBA, Part 1

Pictures from a trip to the Occupy Wall Street protest illustrate obvious similarities to the NBA Lockout.

NBA on Wall Street
According to
“Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations.”
Below is a list of new NBA owners since the last lockout in 1998 taken from the Weak Side Awareness blog and Wikipedia. Notice how many of them made their money on bubbles and financial instruments (weapons of mass destruction that destroyed the economy).
  • Wyc Grousbeck - venture capitalist
  • Dan Gilbert - subprime mortgage lender
  • Mark Cuban - Tech bubble profiteer
  • Stan Kroenke - commercial real estate
  • Tom Gores - venture capitalist
  • Joe Lacob - venture capitalist
  • Michael Heisley - manufacturing
  • Mikhail Prokhorov - graduate of Moscow Finance Institute, Chairman of Onexim Bank
  • Clay Bennett - venture capitalist
  • Robert Sarver - banker

Reporting from ESPN and the LA Times agrees that seven of those owners are taking hard-line positions in collective bargaining. See NBA Lockout: Have Owners’ Bargaining Positions Changed?

Notice any similarities between the people that caused the economic crisis and the people behind the NBA lockout?

I’m not an economist or a financial analyst, but my belief is the beef these hard-line owners have is that they’re over-leveraged just like the banks deemed too big to fail. Those owners borrowed a lot of money to buy their franchises and now they need a bailout just like the banks being protested by Occupy Wall Street.

Why would billionaires borrow money to buy an NBA franchise? Look at how the asking price escalated in the last 20 years:

David Stern and the NBA inflated the prices on new owners and now they’re hard-liners with a “Fuck you, pay me!” message to the commissioner, the labor relations committee and the players.

NBPA Stands Against the 1%
Scoop Jackson did a great job explaining on why “losing the season is more important now than playing one is” for the players. According to Scoop, “The owners have shifted the dynamics from power to principle: Their power versus the players' principles.”

That’s why any analysis of the NBA lockout that focuses purely on the numbers misses the point. For the players, collective bargaining is no longer a rational negotiation about money. It’s about standing up for what’s right and honoring the History of the NBA Labor Movement.

The current lockout is not the first time the NBA was about the owners’ power vs. the players’ principles.
  • The institution of a dress code was an abuse of power, but the players chose paper over principles and dressed the part.
  • The decision to give corrupt referees more power to cost players money with bogus technical fouls was an abuse of power, but the players chose peace over principles and just gave away their paper like it was chump change.
  • Dan Gilbert’s tirade after LeBron James decided to sign a contract with the Miami Heat was an abuse of power, but players on the Cavaliers roster chose paper over principles and played the role of house negroes.
  • Donald Sterling taking women into the locker room to show off players’ naked bodies was an abuse of power, but the players chose paper over principles and let themselves be pimped.

Things seem to be different now, though. The Black Wall of Silence seems to be coming down one brick at a time.

Whether it’s Dwyane Wade putting Stern in his place, LeBron rallying players around 53 percent of BRI, or the discussions of them starting their own league, the players finally seem to be saying enough is enough.

Check out this column by Dave Zirin for a more in-depth discussion of Occupy the NBA. Check out the article "Cut, Cap and Profit" from the Wages of Wins Journal for an explanation of the similarities between the NBA lockout and the American labor struggle.

No comments:

Post a Comment