Heading into Wednesday’s negotiations, maybe the most frustrating thing about the NBA lockout is that both sides seem more focused on winning the public relations battle than ending the labor strife that threatens the season.
Frankly, the public relations battle can’t be won by either the owners or players if regular season games are lost. But that isn’t stopping both sides from trying.
That includes the players union talking to players in hopes avoiding the kind of gaffs the players had during the last lockout. Howard Beck broke it down at the New York Times.
“It was a huge emphasis,” Derek Fisher, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, said in a telephone interview. “The reality is, we’re in a great position, where guys have worked to put themselves in this place where they can potentially earn millions of dollars.”
And fans, generally speaking, do not want to hear about the woes of millionaire athletes — or the billionaire owners who pay them.
At Fisher’s direction, the union last fall distributed a 56-page lockout handbook to its 400-plus players. … But the key point, perhaps, is this simple reminder: “Please be sensitive about interviews or other media displays of a luxurious lifestyle.”
Last time around, Patrick Ewing said that players make a lot of money but they spend a lot of money, too. Kenny Anderson joked that the lockout might force him to sell one of his eight luxury cars. Then there was an All-Star charity game designed to raise money for the players (that money was donated to charity after a backlash). All of that was bad public relations — and that in a pre-Internet era. Today that kind of thing would break twitter.
Here’s the thing about the public relations battle — it does nothing to end the lockout. It’s just trying to get the goodwill of fans.
As Tim Donahue said well at Eight Points Nine Seconds, the fans dont care, they only want one thing — games. They will back whichever side, whatever proposals they think will get them games faster. And in the end they will be angry with both sides for costing them games.
Not just missing games, but missing games during a recession with record unemployment. Both sides seem to be underestimating the backlash that will come their way. The reaction will be worse than any previous lockout.