First, some basics.
During Saturday’s talks, following a talking-points suggestion from George Cohen, the NBA offered a BRI band of 49-51. So if revenues underperform certain levels, the players would receive 49 percent. If they hit acceptable levels (considered by most to be 4 percent growth), both sides would split 50/50. And if things went insanely well (reportedly 20 percent growth which is insane), the players would get 51 percent. Ken Berger reports that in fact, players would get 57 percent of that 51th percent, but that’s getting really complicated, so let’s stick with the basics.
Now, the players rejected the offer outright for a number of reasons. The systemic changes were severe enough for them to resist such an offer. The thresholds were too high for the levels. But instead, let’s consider what the owners did here.
With the players holding at 52 percent, and the owners essentially throwing them a sham offer for 51, it looks like a compromise without being one. OK, that’s par for the course. But if you’ve got a band offer, why not make it 49-52? or 48-52? or 46-52? Any of those band proposals would give the players a public relations pickle. “They gave you 52, what more do you want?!” the uninformed public would cry. It would be seen as a concession, a move towards a deal. You’re not actually giving anything up.
So why not offer that? Yes it puts too much on the table so the players could negotiate the thresholds up. But let’s be honest, that’s not happening, and the owners know it. They’re more than aware of how much power they have. That’s why they held it at 51 percent. Because it’s one percent below what the players said they would hold at. The only way this would be more blatant is if the owners offered a band of 49-51.99999999999999999999999999. It’s a deliberate effort to not only say “we’re going to get what we want, and we’re willing to insult you on the way to taking what we want.”
That’s been the whole problem here. It’s not “the owners are going to win.” They’ve already won. They’ve gotten system concessions. They’ve gotten the players to drop from 57 to 54 to 53 where they said they would not drop from, to 52. They’ve already got what they want. But it’s not enough. The popular analogy has been that it’s not about the win with the owners, it’s the margin of victory. This isn’t even about margin of victory. This is about taunting and doing a dance on your way to the endzone. It’s T.O. dancing on the star. It’s A.I. stepping over his opponent after the three. It’s an assault on more than the players’ earning potential and power, it’s about hitting them in the crotch of their dignity, then taking a photo of it, then posting it on the internet.
They could still make the same one-sided offer they have the whole time while giving the players an out. They’re not even willing to insult the players by patronizing them.
Maybe M.J. is as involved as reports say he is.