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24th November 2011

NBA Lockout sees players in a different court

With Basketball’s stars on strike, Finlay Donaldson takes a look at just why these players are getting so upset…

Basketball became the latest sport to become engulfed in a labour dispute, as the start of the NBA season was postponed last month. The disagreement relates to a collective bargaining agreement between players and the owners of the NBA franchises over how much revenue each party should receive. The clash mirrors similar problems seen in the NFL and La Liga earlier this year.
As of last season, players received 57 percent of all Basketball related income with owners taking home 43 percent. However the owners of the NBA franchises, all successful entrepreneurs, have argued that their percentage of BRI was not enough to break even and that collectively the franchises were loosing $300 million a year. Whilst the players were willing to reduce their income to 52.5%, most of the owners decided to push even harder. This led to the players taking action.
Last week the National Basketball Players Association was formally disbanded, allowing players to sue the league for anti-trust violations. Many players, such as Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, have already submitted cases for violations to the Courts in California and Minnesota. Anthony was quoted as saying the league’s lockout was an “illegal group boycott” that violates federal antitrust law.
Essentially, the lockout boils down to two main factors: money and power. The owners, not used to having employees dictate terms, are trying to exercise their control over the players and reap the financial rewards at the same time. The players argue that they are the main attraction of the NBA and should be able to exercise their own control on proceedings.
With the case going to court, it appears that the dispute is looking likely to be a drawn out affair, with the whole NBA season under threat. This is because, without a player’s union, the NBA season cannot restart.
Whilst the players argue they are being sold short, one only has to look at the annual salary of an NBA player to see there are two sides to every story. As of last season, the average salary of a player in the NBA was $5.1 million. You’re probably asking yourselves what they are complaining about? Imagine if Steven Gerrard came out in the British media saying he wasn’t happy about the £120,000 he earns a week and he has persuaded all his Liverpool team mates to stop playing as well. It just wouldn’t happen. It would cause uproar. Cue comparisons to troops in Afghanistan and NHS nurses.
That is why the dispute is about far more than just money. The players aren’t bargaining for a higher share of profits in order to pay the bills. Instead it is simply a clash between two wealthy, egocentric and successful groups of individuals who are used to getting their own way. A stalemate occurs.
Even more worrying is the fact that, unless the two sides kiss and make up swiftly, there are very little alternative solutions. Some players have jumped the gun and have moved to Europe in order to continue playing but a mixture of a lack of potential earnings and convenience means all 65 players who have moved are either fringe players or amateurs.
For the foreseeable future it appears that both sides are holding out until the other side cracks. From the evidence above, it seems like they could be there a while.

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