Thursday, May 19, 2005Laboring Labor Talks
The NBA and the NBA Players union have broken off talks over a new labor agreement. They have time to get them started yet, but this isn't the message the league needs to have going through the media during its playoffs.
Comparing the situations between the leagues shows that the similiarities aren't there. The NHL is dealing with a players union that is spoiled and unrealistic while the NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman doesn't really have the respect of anyone. Hockey's marketing appeal fell so much from the successful 2002 Olympics that Bettman was forced to sign a bare bones (relatively speaking) TV deal just to keep the product on American television.
The NBA just signed a pretty decent TV deal with ABC/ESPN and they seemed to be turning the corner with the product this season. There's a new group of superstars that are starting to establish themselves and last year a lot of people saw the 400 pound gorilla in L.A. get smashed by the team-first Pistons.
However they are risking all this momentum if July 1 strikes without a deadline agreement, the 1999 lockout absolutely destroyed a sport that was already going to suffer from the second retirement of Michael Jordan and the dismantling of the Chicago Bulls.
So my suggestion to David Stern and Billy Hunter is to take a break from each other for the month. Both sides know what needs to get done and David Stern is arguably the best Commissioner in sports. Both sides need to give each other some space and by the beginning of June start discussing how to compromise. Unlike the NHL I don't think the sides are as far apart. The only thing that worries me are comments like these:
The three-month era of good feeling ended with a bang. The league said that after meeting with prominent player agents, the union backed out of agreement on several points, including the league's key demand, reducing the length of contracts from seven years to five.
The union made no statement, but ESPN's Greg Anthony said union director Billy Hunter, who is black, told him the league's suggestion the agents were running things was "racist" and "bigoted."
In a predominately white league office and predominately black union, the race issue has always been there and it would make life a lot easier if both sides squashed it and apologized.
And a memo to Stern: Drop the age limit, it's not worth a lockout.
NBA Labor Talks Take a Bad Turn [LA Times]
Ball Now in Their Court [Boston Globe]
NBA Doesn't Need a Lockout [Sports Network]