If a basketball hits the hardwood and there is nobody there to hear it; does it still make a sound? The longer the NBA Lockout persists, the more likely the chance that the Association will return to sparsely populated arenas when they finally ratify a new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Over the last few days I have received quite a bit of mail from fans who support NBA Team Owners as well as those who think the NBA Players Association have conceded more than enough during the last few months of negotiations. However, the overriding tone of all the reaction I have gotten is one of anger; which stems from the feeling people have that neither side truly cares about fans of the Association, or the arena workers who are losing money with every game that is being cancelled.
Regular readers of these pages are well aware that I covered the Cleveland Cavaliers as a radio reporter in my job as Sports Director for Metro Networks in Cleveland for 11 years, from 1995-2006. I happen to have a very good friend who works in food services for Quicken Loans Arena, as well as friends who are ushers and security guards at the arena. These folks count on the money that they earn in these positions to keep their heads above water economically; however their plight seems to be forgotten as we concentrate on the battle between billionaires and millionaires. My friends in the media are effected as well, as videographers, photographers and engineers are missing a payday with every game that is cancelled.
Attorney David Boies, who is handling the anti-trust suits that Association players have filed against the NBA told the “Associated Press” earlier this week that the responsibility for the darkened arenas across the nation lies with the Team Owners and NBA Commissioner David Stern. The attorney said to reporters “If it were up to the players, there would be games being played right now. There is one reason and one reason only that the season is in jeopardy and that is because the owners have locked the players out and have maintained that lockout for several months. If there’s not a basketball season, responsibility for that lies in one place and one place only, and that is the NBA and the NBA owners because they’re the ones who are keeping the players from playing.”
To a great extent what Boies says is true; however let’s not say that the players themselves are blameless in this situation. If they really wanted to be playing right now, they would have worked out an agreement to ratify a new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement and we would have a full slate of games this weekend. Instead the Association has already cancelled games through December 15, with little optimism that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Although my sympathies historically lie with labor in all contract negotiations; it is truly hard to feel anything but contempt for either side the longer this work stoppage persists. The NBA may have suffered permanent damage in the eye of the public all for the sake of $100 million. In our present economic state in this country, that is not going to sit well with a lot of Americans; who just may end up leaving the game for good this time.