NBA Labor Relations: The Lesson of Green Bay

I don’t follow the Mariners and baseball overall nearly as carefully as I used to.  I follow the Seahawks, I’m watching the game out of the corner of my eye right now, but I am not a rabid fan.  Even without the Supersonics, the NBA remains my professional sport of choice.

With the Sonics gone, I have taken to trips to Portland for live action coupled with TV.  That the Jailblazer era is long over, that Mac 10 is coach, and UW’s Brandon Roy is a top player makes it easy to look past the Portland-Seattle rivalry of the past.  And Snohomish’s Jon Brockman…the Brockness monster…gives me reason to keep Milwaukee on my radar as well.

Not surprisingly then, the impending NBA labor fiasco is disturbing.  The NY Times’s Howard Beck reports today that yesterday’s bargaining session ended “without much progress”.  David Stern makes empty threats, answering the press regarding his settle now or there will be “enormous consequences”:  “I don’t take myself as seriously as you do.”  Aren’t I suppose to take the commissioner seriously and at his word?

All this pain for fans is rooted in a simple situation, for which I hold the owners more responsible.   The league taken together makes lots of money.  But 23 teams lose money.  Why: TV revenue is not shared.  As an example, revenue in Portland is about 10% of that in New York.  I am fine if team payroll is hard capped (which the players oppose, give that up players), but the owners seeking a cap level under which all teams can be profitable without instituting revenue sharing (not in the owners thinking) is not a workable solution.  All speaks to the inability of the commissioner to do anything to offend an owner.  Stern much prefers to bully players and fans.  (Full disclosure:  I am not very tolerant of Stern who has a long history of bullying behavior, best exemplified in destroying the Seattle Supersonic franchise.)

Why is it the NFL has this all figured out and the NBA cannot?   There are storied small market teams in the NFL (for example Green Bay stands out), but one rarely connects the word dynasty with any NFL team.  Makes for a competitive, interesting league.   Figure it out Stern.

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