It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion we’re going to have some labor strife when the players can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement after the 2016-17 season. With the new 9-year, $24 billion TV rights deal going into affect beginning with the start of that same 2016-17 season, it’s no wonder the players are ticked about all they’re being asked to do on behalf of the billionaire owners. That’s the exegesis of Kobe Bryant‘s tweet earlier today.
Right now, players are required to take less than their market value due to a cap on their salaries and give back half the BRI (basketball-related income) to the owners, as per the 2011 CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). All of this while being demonized by fans and owners alike as somehow selfish or ungrateful if they don’t take less in order to help their teams build a winner (the Tim Duncan corollary). Kobe ran into this very issue when he signed a two-year, $48 million extension with the Lakers last season.
Fans, writers and others tripped all over themselves to inform the public that Kobe was hindering LA’s chances to win in those two seasons (the first of which is right around the corner, thank God) for a larger paycheck. For want of a better example to illustrate how egregiously hypocritical this is for owners, but also for fans, lets compare that idea to you, dear reader: Should you accept a smaller salary for the betterment of whomever you work for — even though they can afford to pay you what you’re worth in the marketplace AND still turn a nice profit?
And you wonder why there’s an ever-escalating economic divide in America.
Stepping down from the soapbox for a second, here’s Kobe’s tweet:
Listen, we’re not up at night highlighting passages from Marx’s Manifesto, but we do side with the players (i.e. the workers), since they’re the ones who have led to the NBA’s surge in popularity and the new TV-rights deal. Others should also take credit, specifically David Stern, Adam Silver and the other fine people who work in the NBA and commissioner’s office, but to somehow give the owners sole monetary credit for the NBA’s almost $3 billion annual haul from Disney and Turner is doing a huge disservice to the players. They notice, too.
We aren’t going to take sides in this debate until a strike or lockout actually occurs — Deron Williams certainly thinks it’s on the horizon — and the NBPA was run like a nepotism-infested Tammany Hall before Billy Hunter stepped down and the estimable DC trial lawyer Michele Roberts stepped into his place with a real star with some power, Chris Paul, taking over as the head of the player’s union.
But the valuation of NBA franchises is churning out some heavy moolah for some rather inept owners. Owners — mind you — who made sure to institute severe luxury taxes and a harsh salary cap in their most recent CBA negotiations in order to penalize themselves, and their larger-market brethren, for being way too loose with the pocketbook earlier in the millennium. The affect of the CBA is now players like Kobe, or Durant or LeBron or — as a more recent example — Carmelo Anthony, have to take less than their maximum allowable in order to open up room for teammates. This DESPITE the fact the maximum allowable is still a lot less than they could probably command in a truly free marketplace. The 2011 CBA is socialism for people who probably read Horatio Alger unironically.
When an owner finds himself unable to build a contending team, but wants his star player to take a pay-cut to devolve himself of the mess he* created with his franchise, then you get stars like Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and LeBron James very loudly trumpeting how unfair the system is for the workers who actually create the product on the court we all hold so dear.
It’s hard for us general folk to muster up any outrage for an athlete getting paid a multi-million dollar (usually guaranteed) contract to play what amounts to a child’s game, not to mention the ensuing endorsements that come along with playing said game. But when the fat cats who run NBA teams sign such a gargantuan TV-rights deal, less than five years after claiming they were on the doorstep of financial ruin during CBA negotiations, then you know something’s gotta give.
All of this is a very roundabout way of saying we kind of liked Kobe’s tweet.
Do you agree with Kobe?
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