Title: The Crisis of the NBAPA; Is Adam Silver Poised to Take The NBAPA’s Lunch?
By Brian Crowell; Member NEA and AFT Teachers Union
Much praise was given to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in wake of the Donald Sterling Controversy. Silver gave an almost “Baptist church” like speech shouting out NBA names such as “Sweet Water Clifton” and “Magic Johnson” to try to win over consent of a mostly black NBA League. Sure Adam, I heard the salient points but “Sweet Water Clifton” is a bit much. I think you were more concerned that players would boycott the playoff game and still be allowed their full paychecks under Title 7 Protection.
After all Donald Sterling essentially said he didn’t want certain African Americans at his games, which to me a historian sounds like blacks not allowed to sit in lunch counters, or ride in the front of the bus. 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, nothing has changed for rank and file African Americans if anything, things have become worse. Just look at the Unemployment and Incarceration numbers for blacks and the concept paints a bleak picture. No, the Crisis is in the NBAPA goes much deeper into what Silver didn’t say, and what he wants in the upcoming CBA if either side opts out of the deal.
Lets begin with issue number 1. Salary Cap. Yes Adam Silver wants a “hard cap” on player salaries limiting the amount players can earn for their labor in the NBA. In a capitalist system it sounds like sacrilege for Silver to suggest such a thing. If Robert Downey Jr. Can earn up to $50 million dollars for “The Avengers” then why can’t Lebron James Earn $40 Million for an entire NBA Season? (Don’t get me wrong I love Iron Man, but Lebron gets me off my couch with his nasty 1 hand tomahawk dunks). Baseball does just find without a salary cap, and there’s no evidence to suggest that a salary cap increases “competition” between the teams. (See footnotes). In professional sports its a known fact that whoever gets the best players, coaches, training staff and management will win an abundance of the glory. The conservative Supreme Court would never suggest limiting profits for Microsoft or Google, I doubt they would decide to do so to limit NBA Player Salaries. Isn’t price manipulation “illegal” under Anti Trust Law? ( See Footnotes). No, Silver’s assertion to impose a hard cap is the same economic racism we see in the NFL and frankly the players should take a stand now and stop it. When is the last time a fan bought a ticket to see Donald Sterling shoot a 3 pointer?
To continue on issue number 2. Age minimum for NBA Players. Let me be clear some of the best NBA Players never went to college. Let’s name a few Kevin Garnett, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant. That’s a pretty awesome list. So what’s behind this policy? Well that’s obvious; Silver is trying to give a bone to his friends at the NCAA so they can lock in their players at slave non wages for an extra year. (Full disclosure my wife is white I have nothing against any culture or creed), however to ignore the fact that black athletes create enormous wealth for Universities (who are majority white) would be naive, dishonest and obtuse. It must be said: black athletes create billions of dollars for college and universities. In the context of the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit for players to be compensated for their likeness I hope this concept hits home for NBA Players.
For Silver to take away a players right to earn a living, to secure a few more billions for his friends at the NCAA is not only exploitation I could also call it something else. Hey Adam what happened to “Sweet Water Clifton” and “Magic Johnson”? I guess that only applies when players are starting to recognize their own power and boycott games under Title 7 Protection. Message to Chris Paul: Wake up Chris players need to start saving their money now and get ready for the impending labor fight which could come as early as 2016.
Issue number 3. The union itself. One could ask how does ownership get away with all of these anti player and anti labor policies? Well that answer is rooted in the structure of the union itself. For readers who don’t know if you’re in a union, management is exempt from all Anti Trust Law. This is why the NFL and NBA had to decertify and become a “trade association” so they could get possible relief in the courts. The question should be asked in the context of the NBA Owners licking their chops to take more of the player’s lunch: should the NBAPA decertify and become a permanent NBA Trade Association. After all their trade is basketball and as an association they could get relief in the courts that they can’t currently get in collectively bargained contracts. (I am a member of 2 unions and have served as a rep, but this concept needs to be explored further).
Issue number 4. Leadership. It’s no accident that the players can’t find a new Executive Director to represent them. Kevin Johnson is serving as a stand in but something tells me that KJ wants to be Chair of the DNC or Governor of California. The NBA Players need someone skilled in Federal Anti Trust Litigation. The reason the owners can impose conditions on players who generate all the money is because the owners can skirt the anti trust issue, while claiming they are bargaining in good faith. Its a bait and switch tactic unfortunately the players seem to keep falling for it. Wake up players, go back and talk to Oscar Robinson and Bill Russell. Become more socially conscious. If any player saw how Coach Mark Jackson was treated the message is clear. Players are expendable commodities. Lacob basically told Stephen Curry “I don’t care what you think boy” you belong to me until your contract is up. The Plantation is still alive and well not only in rank and file jobs in America, but also in the NBA. Will the players learn anything from the lockout and stop being exploited? Only time will tell.