* Good Sports *

– NBA and Player’s Association Reach Labor Agreement, Avoid Lockout

Congratulations to the National Basketball Association and NBA Player’s Association for reaching a compromise on a new six-year labor agreement. Prior to last week’s pact, conventional wisdom was that the NBA owners would lock-out the players and take a similar hard-line approach toward maximizing revenues for owners as did the National Hockey League.

But perhaps the NHL model, under the inept direction of Commissioner Gary Bettman, turned out to be the biggest reason NBA Commissioner David Stern ultimately chose a more reasonable path. NHL owners continue to lock-out their players in a disastrous campaign that has, so far, canceled the entire 2004-05 season, and caused widespread fan resentment with questions as to whether the NHL can fully recover.

For Stern, orchestrating another NBA lockout (the last of which forced the shortening of the 1998-99 season from 82 games to 50) without a single sufficient reason for doing so would have caused potentially irreparable damage to the league. But recognizing that, financially, NBA owners are doing very well and that, competitively, the league is benefiting from the NHL debacle, this was no time for the NBA to risk sinking to the NHL’s level.

Provisions in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement that benefit the owners include shorter player contracts, smaller annual raises, four random drug tests a year, an age minimum of 19 and a minor league. To the benefit of the players, they receive at least 57 percent of the league’s revenues, a 3 percent increase in the NBA’s salary cap and an additional two jobs per team up to 14 players.

League of Fans opposes the 19-year old age limit (the NBA tried for 20). It is a discriminatory policy, obviously directed at young black players, that harms the freedom for these young adults to make a living (for more on racism and the age restriction, see Dave Zirin’s excellent April 21, 2005 column “Straight Outta High School: Jermaine O’Neal, Race, and Hip Hop”). Nevertheless, the age restriction was collectively bargained, and will go into effect in June, 2006. To his credit, Commissioner Stern hinted at an upcoming directive that will ban all NBA personnel from scouting teenagers in high school gyms. A similar mandate should be applied to such school-kid scouting and recruiting meddlers as Major League Baseball, Nike and the U.S. Armed Forces as well.

More Information:

For commish, CBA helps ‘avoid the Apocalypse’
By Marc Stein, ESPN.com – June 21, 2005

Players’ union ratifies new contract with league
Reuters – June 29, 2005

A limit that defies logic
By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports – June 27, 2005

League of Fans’ Statement on the NHL’s Cancellation of the 2004-05 Season and the Ongoing Lockout – February 18, 2005

League of Fans on Collective Bargaining


* Bad Sports *

– Robin Hood in Reverse: Supreme Court Decides Private Use is “Public Use” in Eminent Domain Case

From Field of Schemes – June 23, 2005:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has made its ruling in the Kelo v. City of New London case: In a 5-4 ruling, the court declared that (in the words of the Associated Press) ‘local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses against their will for private development.’ The ruling clears the way for local governments to continue using eminent domain proceedings to clear land for private projects – including sports stadiums – on the grounds that creating economic development is a ‘public use.’”

From The Sports Economist – June 25, 2005:

“As readers of this blog well know, the ‘economic development’ claim is a routine ploy in the political jousting over stadium subsidies. . . . The use of an economic development rationale to justify stadium subsidies has a long history. This history has been extensively studied by sports economists. Here is what we know: (i) Every case for a stadium subsidy is accompanied by an ‘economic impact analysis’ showing that investment in the stadium will help develop the local economy. (ii) Scholars view these studies as political propaganda, not as objective analysis. (iii) Objective evidence that such development actually takes place is meager at best – virtually every published study fails to find a significant economic impact from sports stadia.

The economic literature on stadium subsidies is thus very clear: economic development provides no basis for justifying public investment in stadia. Yet peddlers of fantasy under the economic development banner make their living aiding and abetting major league owners in their quest for public handouts. In Kelo, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to ban this tripe from the courtroom in takings cases. But the decision gives these same peddlers the license to aid and abet developers in tearing down neighborhoods.”

From Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s dissenting opinion – June 23, 2005:

“Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings ‘for public use’ is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property and thereby effectively to delete the words ‘for public use’ from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

. . . Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.”

Ralph Nader’s statement – June 24, 2005:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v City of New London mocks common sense, tarnishes constitutional law and is an affront to fundamental fairness.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution permits government to seize private property for a “public use,” such as a highway, railroad, or military facility, provided it gives the owner “just compensation.” Many state constitutions have similar provisions. But in modern times it has become common for the government, usually at the state or local level, to seize property and transfer it to another private party rather than maintaining it for public use.

Hundreds of abuses of eminent domain have occurred during the last few decades, with municipalities playing reverse Robin Hood‚ taking from ordinary citizens and giving to powerful individual developers or corporations. In many cases, the alleged public benefit is a transparent cover for what amounts to legalized theft.

With today’s decision, the Court has abdicated its role as guardian of the Constitution and individual rights. This decision authorizes courts across the country to allow self-defining misuses of “public use” and “public benefit” requirements. State courts, however, remain free to interpret their own constitutions as imposing more reasonable restraints on government taking of individual property.

For a more detailed discussion of this topic see: Ralph Nader & Alan Hirsch, “Making Eminent Domain Humane,” 49 Villanova Law Review 207 (2004).

More Information:

Kelo Et Al. v. City of New London Et Al.
Supreme Court of the United States
Decided June 23, 2005

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes
By Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press – June 24, 2005

Proposal Made to Seize Justice Souter’s Property
Associated Press – June 29, 2005

Eminent Domain explanation and background

League of Fans on Stadiums and Arenas


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