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What can NBA learn from NFL labor peace?

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They have labor peace over in the NFL. Well, the players have to vote and some league veterans have a lawsuit that could throw a wrench in the works.

But it looks like there will be NFL football in September as had been scheduled. Preseason games (except the Hall of Fame Game) will take place on time, too.

What can the NBA take away from this? What does the NFL labor peace mean for the NBA?

Not much in terms of the deal itself.

But there is one key thing to take away — this puts more pressure on both sides in the NBA situation to reach a deal.

If the NBA is the only league missing games the repercussions will be severe — to lockout and miss games during the greatest recession this nation has seen in generations will anger casual fans in a way no professional sports league has seen before. Some owners (and players) have estimated it would take four to five years to bounce back to current levels if there is only half a season or less. They underestimate the mood of the public. They underestimate how people will react when millionaires and billionaires can’t figure out how to divide up the fans money during a time of record unemployment. When everyone else is trying to get by on less. It doesn’t matter if the owners or players win the public relations battle, both sides will suffer. For many years.

Also, the NBA was always likely to follow the NFL’s lockout arc — a lot of posturing and not a lot of real negotiating until they were close to missing the start of training camps and games. Until there was that pressure, the two sides in the NFL were not going to reach a deal. Until we see that pressure build on the NBA starting in August and getting serious in September, we are not going to see meaningful negotiations. We all knew that. It doesn’t make them not sitting at a table and talking any less frustrating.

In terms of the contract the NFL and its players reached, things are very different with the NBA. At the end of the day, NFL teams were making money, just not as much as the owners used to so they wanted more. In the NBA, the league says 22 of the 30 teams lost money last year. While we can quibble over the accounting, the bottom line is that plenty of teams are not making money and many of those teams are owned by people who paid a premium for those teams and are leveraged. They are coming in with a harder line, and there needs to be changes in the NBA structure.

The NBA and NFL also are different right now in that the players have not decertified the union sued the league. Yet. While some agents like this hardline approach (an effort to gain leverage and force the owners to seriously negotiate), to do it would be to cost games — the NBA’s offseason is much shorter than the NFL’s and the federal courts are not fast. David Stern called it the “nuclear option” and it would be. It would reset the negotiations. It would mean at least half a season lost. It would be messy. So far, union director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher have balked at going down that road, but the option is still on the table.

There is also this — the NFL is the king of revenue sharing. More than 70 percent of league revenue is shared thanks to massive national television deals. In the NBA, it is less than 30 percent. Call it socialist if you want, but the NBA owners have to get serious about this if they are going to make smaller markets more viable. Especially with the Lakers having already inked and the Celtics about to ink massive new local television deals (currently no local television revenue is shared).

On paper the Collective Bargaining Agreement is drawn up on, the NFL ending its lockout means little for the NBA. The financial structures of the two leagues are different and the NBA will never have the parity that makes the NFL work (one player, like a LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki, can change games too much).

But the NFL reaching a deal does put pressure on the NBA brethren to get a deal done. Because if the NBA misses games now, they will get all of the anger and all of the repercussions.

So maybe the two sides should sit down at a table soon and talk. It’s time to get serious about this and stop posturing.

Steve Kerr will not “just stick to sports,” embraces new era of player political/social activism

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NEW ORLEANS — “Just stick to sports.”

Anytime an athlete speaks out on social issues, or wades into the political arena, Twitter swells with that comment — from people who disagree with the statement. In the wake of a polarizing election and controversial moves from President Donald Trump — such as his executive order on an immigration seven majority Muslim countries — there has been criticism of his moves from Commissioner Adam Silver, coaches such as Gregg Popovich, as well as players.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been at the front of that criticism, and he is not going to “just stick to sports.”

“If you stick to that mantra, then everybody should stick to what they’re doing, right? That means nobody’s allowed to have a political opinion,” Kerr said during All-Star weekend, where he was repeatedly asked about political and social issues. “It just so happens we get these microphones stuck in our face and we have a bigger platform. But it’s free speech and, if you look at the history of the world, the biggest problems come when people don’t speak.”

The “just stick to sports” crowd almost always opposes what the players said, but root their comments in the idea sports should be an escape from the political realm or other worldly challenges. Even though at it’s best sports has never been that — not with Jackie Robinson or Muhammad Ali or Olympic protests.

Kerr noted that in our modern world with so many outlets for getting your information, fans can choose to avoid political discussions in sports if they wish — just don’t click the link.

“I think you can follow sports however you want as a fan. If you want to watch the games to get away from everyday life, you can do that,” Kerr said. “You can turn on the games and watch the Warriors play or watch the Spurs play or whoever, and it’s just going to be about basketball. If you don’t want to read about political issues, you don’t have to read it. It’s the same in any field, whether it’s basketball, or entertainment, even politics themselves, you have to choose what you want to read about and follow. 

“We are in a society where a lot of us have microphones in our face every day, and a lot of us feel strongly about our need to speak out on injustice. I think it’s important. But it’s up to the individual fan to take that in or not. They can pick and choose.”

For a long time, there has been less social activism among athletes — not just in the NBA, but across sports. That is changing again, and Kerr said it’s a reaction to the times in which we live.

“I think maybe over the last 20 or 30 years there hasn’t been that same sense of urgency because we’ve generally lived in a pretty peaceful era, but it feels like it’s changing and so the whole country is changing in terms of its activism and social awareness,” Kerr said…

“For a long time, a lot of athletes stayed out of the political forum, out of fear of losing customers, and I think it’s refreshing that we have athletes who are putting their social beliefs ahead of any marking issues. I think that’s powerful.”

Kerr spoke out some on a long weekend where he had a microphone in his face a lot,  opposing President Trump policies such as building a border wall with Mexico for example. However, mostly he praised both the increased social activism of players and the stance of the league to stand up for inclusion — including moving the All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.”

“Free speech is one of the principles our country was founded on, I think there’s some responsibility that goes with that if you see injustice,” Kerr said. “That’s why I think the league has been great in terms of understanding that responsibility and taking action, such as moving the All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans….

“I think what the NBA tries to preach is equality, and inclusion — we don’t just talk about it, we live it. We have this beautiful game where we have people from every race and religion and background, and we like that in our fans, too.”

While the league has turned its words into actions such as moving the All-Star Game — and warning Texas if they pass a similar bill Houston is likely out of the running for the 2020 edition of the game — the question is what the next step will be for the players. Commenting on social injustice is one thing, but how do they turn that into actions?

“That’s not my department,” Kerr said with a shrug. “I have spoken out on issues and will continue to do so, and I think the league has done a really good job of walking the walk. Moving the All-Star Game from Charlotte to here I think was an important statement for the league — we are about inclusion and equality for everybody, regardless of gender, race, religion, background, anything.”

Coaches such as Kerr, as well as NBA players, have a bigger megaphone to get out their views because they are interviewed by the media almost daily. Kerr said that he feels players have a responsibility to step up and be heard on issues, not just “stick to sports.”

“I think if you’re in a certain position, and you feel strongly about something, then I think it’s important and you should (speak out),” Kerr said. “But we all live different lives in different places, we’re from different backgrounds with different journeys, and what’s important to me might not be important to somebody else, and visa vera.

“But we’re all in a position where we can make a difference, and I think players understand that.”

Isaiah Thomas (correctly) says that trade wouldn’t be allowed in a video game

Sacramento Kings Media Day
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Kings trade of DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi for a first-round pick, a second-round pick, Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway left many of us shellshocked by Sacramento’s meager return.

Apparently including Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas:

I recently participated in the Dunc’d On Basketball Podcast mock trade deadline, in which Nate Duncan, Danny Leroux, Kevin Pelton and I each took teams and negotiated trades. After the actual Cousins deal, I asked Pelton what he would’ve done if he had the Kings in our podcast and got that offer.

He just burst into laughter.

Thomas might likewise find the trade laughable, but that’s not everything at play with his tweet. The Kings once scorned him, and he hasn’t forgotten.

Emotional DeMarcus Cousins near tears saying goodbye to Sacramento after trade

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Kings’ general manager Vlade Divac took a parting shot at DeMarcus Cousins‘ character when he spoke to the media about the deal.

Cousins could be challenging in the locker room, but he was committed to Sacramento in ways most teams wish their star would be. He was active in the community, did charity work, and was not one of the players that alerted the media and dragged along a video crew when he did. Cousins loves Sacramento.

You can see it as he tears up when saying goodbye to those close to him in this video.

On the court, the trade to New Orleans and the chance to play next to Anthony Davis could be a huge boost for Cousins’ career. We’ll never know what could have been if the Kings knew how to draft or stuck with a system/coach.

But off the court, Sacramento will miss him. And he will miss them.

All-Star game television ratings are best since 2013

Western Conference forward Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans (23 ) slam dunks during the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, Pool)
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NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA All-Star game drew an average audience of 7.8 million viewers, making it the most-viewed All-Star broadcast since 2013.

Turner Sports announced the numbers on Monday. The number of viewers peaked at 8.5 million and the total audience was up 3 percent from last year’s game.

The hype surrounding the game centered on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook playing on the Western Conference team together. Durant left Oklahoma City last summer to join Golden State, leaving his longtime teammate Westbrook behind with the Thunder. Westbrook did not hide his dissatisfaction with Durant, which ratcheted up the intrigue heading into the game on Sunday.

The two shared the court for just 81 seconds and Oklahoma City posted the highest local market rating with a 10.9.