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Why Isn't It Simple?


I believe in the right of players to collectively bargain but I don't understand their objections on some of these so-called system issues except in a theoretical sense.  Like the proposals for player movement.  Why would the players object to getting more money to stay with the same team when that's better for the fans and the game?  It seems petty.

Taking away any kind of freedom is not to be taken lightly, especially since once conceded those rights are hard to get back.  Part of the players' fear appears to be the slippery slope...that once these new measures become the norm they'll be taken for granted and more will be demanded next time.  It's a valid concern.  You never want to go backwards without strong reasons.

You have to remember these guys are more than just professional basketball players.  They're people too.  I got to experience a limited amount of "job placement" coming out of grad school.  In my job they get to assign you your first position.  In essence they hold a draft of all available graduates and split them up by region and then state.  You get to interview several places if you want but if you're "drafted" to Iowa (like I was) you're not going to end up in Oregon until later.  As you might imagine this is shocking for a young man away from his home and support system.   There's no real rule in the system that says how long you have to serve in a place, however.  If you can convince someone to let you interview elsewhere you can leave anytime.  Many of my colleagues depart their first positions after just a couple years.  I stayed seven in mine, considered a long tenure.  I did that because I wanted to be fair and faithful to the people who had hired me and I enjoyed it.  But if someone had changed the rules and said I had to stay that long I would have been plenty upset.  Having the freedom to move and live where you want (and around whom you wish) is an attractive part of being gainfully employed...a part most of us take for granted.  With work destinations already limited to 30 total potential reductions chafe.

Also consider that these systemic issues are linked.  With one flowing from the next acceptance of one turns into a tacit acceptance of many.  Movement restrictions are a prime example.  The owners want two highly objectionable things:  reduced salaries and a harder cap to make sure those salaries stay in proportion.  The first siphons off the well from which the players get paid and the second limits the ability of a given player to make as much as he might have otherwise.  These hit the players hard.  They're almost total losses for their side.   One unintended consequence of these cuts would be more perceived freedom of choice for the players when switching teams.  If Milwaukee and New York can both offer $8 million and no more, why not just head to New York?  The endorsement opportunities are greater, the nightlife is better, maybe it's closer to family.  In the old days the Bucks would have overcome these ancillary concerns by doubling the paycheck.  Now, in the name of competitive balance, they just want to throw you a marginal increase and tell you that you can't move, period.  So you're taking a ton of my money and buying my freedom to choose my place of employment by giving me a sliver of what you took from me in the first place.  You're paying me back with my own money!  This feels more like a company town than either capitalism or democracy.  What's next, charges for uniforms?  Per diems that don't cover the team-mandated chefs who cook for us?

The kicker is, you (dear owner) could overcome the need for these stricter movement rules by simply allowing bigger contract offers and putting money in my pocket.  You refuse to do that so now you have to also take my freedom of choice to close the potential loophole your other stand has created.  You're screwing up twice and making me pay each time.   As soon as I say, "Yes" to the restrictions on movement I've also assented (in spirit at least) to everything that made them necessary.  There's no way I'm doing that, at least not without a fight.

You can see how even the pure, noble "Competitive Balance" mantra that resonates so well with fans becomes code-speak for "bend over even farther" to a player's ears.  I'm not saying that this is the right stance, but it's an understandable one.  The owners trying to strong-arm their way to victory hasn't improved the situation.  It's only confirmed the impression that the players are getting pillaged, looted, and systematically controlled...that if they don't take a stand the slippery slope will become a cliff impossible to re-ascend and that even their staunchest fans will applaud as they plunge to their doom.  Under those circumstances I'd rather go to court than nod and potentially tip the domino that would lead to that fall.  

That's a big reason why you hear people raising a seemingly-unreasonable stink over matters that look plain as day from the outside.  That's also why it's so hard to come up with a complete and workable CBA even when both sides can theoretically compromise on given individual issues.   How many times have we heard, "We have come to an accord on Issues A, B, and C" only to watch negotiations fall apart soon thereafter?  That's because Issues A, B, and C connect to X, Y, and Z.  Those connecting strings are as important as any bullet point.  Until both parties stop tripping over them we're not going to see a deal completed.

--Dave (