GOOD

We're Getting Basketball for Christmas—But at What Cost?

But in the midst of celebrating basketball’s unexpected return, it’s worth remembering what got us into this mess, and who got us out.


For basketball fans, this holiday season is off to a good start. We already know what we’re unwrapping on Christmas morning: a shiny, new NBA season.

It seems nearly unbelievable that this lockout—the second longest in NBA history—has almost officially ended. Basketball observers had come to grips with the seeming inevitability that we wouldn’t see NBA games until late 2012 at the earliest. It looked as though talks had broken down for the last time two weeks ago, when the players said they would get the federal court system involved. And then, out of nowhere in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving weekend, it was over. By Saturday morning, pundits were ranking the free agent market and speculating about Greg Oden’s health just like old times.


This development is unquestionably a net positive. After the prolonged slump that followed the 1999 lockout, the NBA completed its comeback last season. The league’s talent is the best in years. There is a lot to be excited about in the 66-game season.

But it’s also worth remembering what got us into this mess, and who got us out. The lockout was not, as it was often portrayed, a battle between two groups of spoiled brats acting equally petulant. The team owners and NBA commissioner David Stern were working to slash employees’ pay and tell them they were better off for it. If the season had been canceled, it would have fallen squarely on the owners’ shoulders—they were the ones who made unfair offer after unfair offer as part of a greedy power trip.

And when a deal was struck in the wee hours of Saturday morning, it was a direct result of the players stepping up to be the bigger men. The players hate this deal—it cuts their share of revenues from 57 percent to 50 despite the fact that they comprise about 99.9 percent of the league’s draw. Derek Fisher, the Lakers forward and president of the players union, did not smile as he announced the agreement, The New York Times noted, “appearing more relieved than happy.”

“No one on the players’ side praised the agreement,” the newspaper added delicately.

The players did earn a handful of concessions—most relating to maintaining an open free-agent market—but they’re small potatoes compared to the fact that they gave up $3 billion over 10 years to play basketball this season. They may have had to resort to the nuclear option—threatening legal action—but the players accepted a deal that was worse than they deserved. The locker-room attendants and concession sellers and parking valets whose livelihoods depend on basketball games in a way that neither athletes nor owners can imagine should thank the guys on the floor, not the ones who pay their salaries, for giving them their jobs back.

Plenty of pundits have insisted that it’s time to stop “playing the blame game” and just be happy basketball is back. If only it were that simple. Both sides did themselves a disservice by announcing the agreement in the middle of the night on a holiday weekend, when they weren’t forced to fully explain the terms and the process. If we now rush into free agency and preseason practices without having an honest discussion about the dysfunction in pro sports—greed, paternalism, racially fraught power dynamics—that nearly wiped out a season, the same issues are bound to arise again.

The new NBA contract will last for at least six years, but nothing is stopping future NBA commissioner Adam Silver from repeating the mistakes of Stern, his predecessor, in 2017. The National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement expires next year, and Major League Baseball’s in 2016, posing two earlier opportunities for a protracted sports labor dispute. So while I’ll happily park myself on the couch and root against the Heat on Christmas Day, I’ll rue the missed opportunity to change the false narrative of greedy millionaires trying to bilk fans for as much money as possible.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user the_junes

Articles
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics