Why I Support the NBA Players: Sacrifing Their Earning for Those Who Will Come After Them

Whenever professional atheletes attempt to gain higher salaries–and remember most don’t earn superstar salaries and have very short careers–it’s always depicted by the Morons in the Media as two groups of rich guys fighting with each other and EATING ALL OUR SPORTZ! David Zirin notes this is nothing more than owner propaganda (boldface mine):

If I were an NBA player, I’d be mighty confused right now. I wouldn’t be confused about why the entire 2011–12 season is now in jeopardy. I wouldn’t be confused about rejecting the ultimatums and “last, final offers” of NBA Commissioner David Stern. Instead, I’d be confused as hell by the media’s reaction to my union’s collective and unanimous stand.

The 21st century athlete—particularly the twenty-first-century African-American athlete—gets regularly blasted for being a weak, watered-down shadow of their more principled forebears and only caring about the money. Entire books (see Shawn Powell’s Souled Out) have been written examining their ego-driven materialism and absence of social conscience. Yet here are today’s players rejecting a deal from David Stern that would have guaranteed them their entire current contracts if they were only willing to sell out the ballers of the future. All Kobe Bryant, who was due the biggest payday of his career, would have had to do was raise his hand in dissent. All NBPA President, Derek Fisher would have had to do is blink. All Lebron/Wade/Bosh, the supposedly selfish Miami Heat Big 3, would have had to do was holler. Stern’s offer would have been accepted and they all would have been paid and paid well.

But after the players had given back $300 million in revenues, the owners wanted more. They wanted the freedom to limit the future compensation for the sport’s “middle class” role players and to be able to send anyone on their roster to the National Basketball Developmental League for up to five years while dropping their salaries to $75,000 a year. The players, without dissent, said no.

In this day and age, such action should be seen as admirable. Supposedly selfish athletes are sacrificing their own game-checks for the players of the future.

All of those atheletes, even the great ones, are on a clock: at some point, they are too old. For those keeping score at home, this is far more principled than many unions which have adopted a two-tier wage system, with new hires getting rocked (admittedly, the NBA players have far more leverage here). And the players are candid about their wages, while the owners are still not opening their books while crying poverty.

But the well-heeled dim bulbs of the press view it differently (boldface mine):

Michael Wilbon, perhaps the most read—and most paid—sports columnist in America, wrote, “I’m tired of the debate, tired of what seems like whining over billions of dollars at a time when so many Americans are searching frantically for a second job just to pay the rent…. They keep telling us how going from approximately $5.4 million (on average) to $5 million is draconian…when my idea of ‘not fair’ is when a 58-year-old single mom with three children has her teacher’s aide salary slashed. Tell her about what’s not fair.”

First, I would like to meet the “58-year-old single mom with three children [who has had] her teacher’s aide salary slashed” with whom Michael Wilbon is in regular dialogue. Then, I’d like the entire varied punditocracy to just admit the truth. The players stood up to a group of the most powerful men in the country, and these same men, through broadcast partnerships with networks like ESPN or even direct employment, pay the six- and seven-figure salaries of Wilbon and his cohorts.

As Wilbon’s longtime PTI partner, Tony Kornheiser said when asked why he wouldn’t critique Washington football owner Dan Snyder’s ugly lawsuit against the Washington City Paper, “There are two companies that provide me with the economic opportunity that I’ve had in recent years, which has been very beneficial to me. And in the words of my colleague Bomani Jones, I’m not gonna mess around with where the money comes from, OK?” (Kornheiser’s daily radio show is on a network Snyder owns. I also believe Bomani Jones deserves better than to be lumped in with this idiocy.)

But, of course, they are disinterested parties.

By the way, there might be a lesson in here somewhere about our political press corps…

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2 Responses to Why I Support the NBA Players: Sacrifing Their Earning for Those Who Will Come After Them

  1. CC says:

    Thank you for reminding us that while NBA players are well-paid workers, they are still workers. While it does seem petty for these workers to be arguing over what seems like an obscene amount of money because there is high unemployment doesn’t change the FACT that in the NBA there IS an obscene amount of money to argue over.

  2. Dave Dell says:

    I can’t remember who said it but I’m pretty sure it was during one of the NFL’s labor disputes. “When we call it a game, the owners call it a business. When we call it a business, the owners call it a game.”
    I’m not a big fan of NBA basketball but I admire the NBA players and their stance in this.

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