The NBA season was supposed to start today, but after the expiration of the league’s collective bargaining agreement July 1, the players and team owners have struggled to agree on new terms — mainly how to divide $4 billion in basketball-related income.
These successful owners and basketball players, who have long served as role models in the business community and for the general population, should now be viewed as less than ideal citizens.
They have allowed greed and self-interest to get in the way of the well-being of thousands of displaced workers and the emotional escapism that sports so often provide for a country already in the midst of difficult times.
Following one of the highest-rated playoffs in league history, the NBA’s popularity should only be rising. It should be a victory for the game of basketball and everyone involved, including players, fans, owners and employees.
Instead, a full 82-game season is no longer a possibility, but the ramifications are worse than one might initially imagine.
Players and owners alike roll into labor negotiation meetings clad in designer suits with their BMWs and Rolls Royces, yet the sides resemble two boys at a playground squabbling over the basketball until the sun goes down, and the rest of the children can’t play and have to go home.
Those dejected children are the many businesses and employees that rely on the league for financial security. While they are surrounded by their own wealth, they refuse to see the direct harm they are causing to those around them.
Students, who fall into the sport’s key demographic, should take note of the way players and owners have let greed get the best of each other. Players and owners have tarnished what used to be a successful and profitable relationship.
College students are sometimes thrust into situations where greed is involved. Group projects are a prime example. Students want to get a good grade, but most don’t want to put in the work for it. Equally dividing the work between the partners is an adequate compromise.
Though most of us will never be involved in such high-profile negotiations with the ability to alter the lives of thousands of employees, the old elementary school lesson of “treat others how you want to be treated” is at play here.
Compromise is something players and owners should adopt. We must concern ourselves with the externalities of our decisions, especially when greed is in play.
Each of the NBA’s 29 arenas employs approximately 1,000 individuals who work concessions, security and cleanup, and each team has its own facility and office employees who face devastating pay-cuts and layoffs.
Don’t forget everyone involved in television broadcasts, radio stations, sports journalism, athletic retail, sports bars and local restaurants and hotels.
Given that the NBA is an indirect source of income for small businesses, independent bars will lose anywhere from $10,000 to $14,000 because of players’ and owners’ greed.
Congratulations, players and owners. Your greed has successfully left tens of thousands of people struggling to get by, while you enjoy an extended vacation with the security of millions in savings for either playing or watching a game.
The individuals who once served as some of the most visible role models in American culture are now the wealthy and the greedy. In these times of economic strife, this is the last thing blue-collar Americans need to hear about.
And with players vacating the country looking for places to play abroad, their loyalty, which kept many fans loyal to the sport and the league, must be called into question.
Before this lockout, fans could remember a time when athletes like Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki were praised for their unwavering loyalty to a single team and applauded for pouring an incredible amount of effort into a career they loved and appreciated.
They could respect former defensive stalwart Dikembe Mutombo for donating at least $15 million to build a hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo or New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire for funding and building water wells in Sierra Leone.
Now, the lockout has tarnished this image and exposed fans to the ugly side of sports and unearthed the mechanism of money driving the operations behind a beautiful game. To the players, the green apparently means more than the glory, and that is unacceptable. We must be careful we don’t fall into the same trap.
Jeremy Chen is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism.