The anxiety of both players and owners is going up as time moves on without a new collective bargaining agreement in the NBA.
One factor that hasn’t been talked about much is a pending National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that could come any day. The players filed charges in May claiming the owners “were not interested in making an agreement in the early bargaining, were deliberately scheming to initiate their lockout at the earliest possible moment, and are exaggerating their financial plight.” See “The NLRB Hammer and the NBA Lockout.” According to ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson, if the players prevail the owners “may face court action that will end their lockout.” Obviously, that would mightily enhance the players’ leverage. If the owners win the NLRB case they would have the hammer and could keep canceling games until the players cave in completely. Players’ careers are short and they’d likely scramble for any deal with the owners if the NLRB ruling is unfavorable.
Meanwhile, the owners are considering replacement players (not likely) and the players are looking at overseas options as well as creating a players’ league to rival the NBA. The owners enjoy their monopoly status and don’t want to deal with any competitive threat, especially one in which the greatest basketball players in the world are also the owners. However, a players’ league would be an organizational nightmare for players and an enormous risk. (See “Power to the People.” ) The NBA is a powerful brand and that’s where basketball fans want to turn for their pro basketball. The history of new pro sports leagues isn’t very good.
The longer this lockout goes on, the more it favors the owners. Due to their short career windows, the players have the most to lose if the entire season is cancelled. Labor disputes are tough enough for the employee side but when the employees are up against a monopoly like the NBA the challenge is even greater. The fact that quite a few players have already signed contracts with European or Chinese teams is definitely a concern for owners but probably not enough of one for them to sweeten their latest offer to the players. (Sidenote: NBA owners’ initial offer to players was 37 percent of basketball related income (BRI), down from 57 percent in the prior contract. They’ve come up to 50 percent of BRI but are adamant they aren’t budging from that.)
There’s no telling when the NLRB ruling will come down but the players need it to happen quickly and in their favor. Without a positive NLRB ruling, it appears the only question is how much worse will the new collective bargaining agreement be for the NBA players.
For fans who just want to see games again, this is probably the best-case scenario: Both the players and owners have concerns about what the NLRB ruling might be and how it could impact their side. Both sides would like to get a deal done before the NLRB ruling is made. So, the best chance for NBA games to take place in the near future is for the NLRB cloud hanging over both sides to provide enough incentive to both parties that a deal can get done soon.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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