NBA lockout: Owners, players need to negotiate differently
The more games the NBA misses, the more both the owners and players union miscalculate their next move.
The owners have tried crushing the union, knowing the players' spirits will dampen once the paychecks stop coming. The players have tried fighting back, putting on a defiant front that says they won't allow the owners to bully them.
The result has already proved damaging.
The NBA canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, and could cancel more. The players lose $160 million in salary for every two weeks of missed games, while the league loses $800 million. The concession and team employees continually feel worried for their jobs. The average fan feels no sympathy for either side fighting over $4.3 billion in this sagging economy. And the NBA continues to put its popularity in jeopardy.
That's why both sides need to change their negotiating tactics when they meet Wednesday in New York.
For one, it's a small but encouraging sign the owners dropped their precondition of demanding acceptance of a 50-50 revenue split, as SheridanHoops.com's Chris Sheridan reported. But they need to do more. It's inevitable they've won this labor battle because they have the leverage, but there's no need to kick the players union when it's already down.
The players have already conceded dropping their 57% share of basketball-related income to 53%, and at Thursday's meeting to 52.5%. They've already accepted a rollback in salaries. And they know some added luxury tax is inevitable to curb spending and ensure more competitive balance. There's no need to fuel further resentment to the players who largely drive the NBA's popularity.
That's why it's understandable the union has mistrusted the owners and refused to make further concessions. But the players are not fully comprehending that this labor debate has always been about minimizing their losses than actually winning at the negotiating table.
Complaining about the misinformation campaign spread from NBA Commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver will fall on deaf ears. Lamenting an unfair deal won't garner any fan sympathy. Prolonging this lockout for the sake of a fairer deal will only cause further angst, with lost paychecks and less lucrative offers from an angrier and more leveraged team of owners.
Both sides have to this point mostly remained defiant to appease their own constituents. But they're already on a collision course that will prove more harmful than good. That's why they need to change their approach quickly before the damage becomes more difficult to repair.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: A fan holds up a message for NBA Commissioner David Stern, as well as players, during an exhibition game Oct. 8 in Miami. Credit: J. Pat Carter / Associated Press