This year’s NBA lockout, overlapping briefly with that of the NFL brought to light the fact that the inherent differences between ordinary US citizens and professional athletes, exists not only in natural ability but also in compensation for said ability.
The lockout originated when NBA owners stopped work after the expiration of the existing collective bargaining agreement established in order to avoid a lockout in 2005. The existing agreement granted the players 57% of all basketball-related income, it also included new age minimums for rookies (resulting in many top high-school athletes to attend college for a single year in order to continue playing until they were eligible for the NBA draft). The 2005 agreement was scheduled to expire on June 30, 2011, at which time having been unable to reach an agreement with players, the NBA owners ceased work.
The major issue driving owners to such an agreement stemmed from the enormous financial discrepancy between large and small market teams. Last season alone, the NBA reports that 22 of 30 teams lost money, amounting to a grand total of $300 million lost in a single season. As the owners sought to recompense those loses, they attempted to reduce the percent of income granted to players universally. The players refused to concede their salaries. This created the major sticking point in negotiations causing the NBA to cancel almost half of this season’s games.
The owners desired to so-called level the playing field by imposing a salary cap, reducing the overall spending potential of large-market teams namely those in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. They also sought to create a 50-50% split between players and owners for all basketball-related income.
Michael Jordan, famous as one of the greatest basketball players the NBA has ever seen, and present owner of the Charlotte Bobcats lead NBA owners in demanding money from players' salaries.
Players immediately balked at such a suggestion. Their refusal to accept any deal granting them less than 51% of said income caused negotiations to drag out over months, with the NBA canceling the entire preseason, then the first half of November, then all of November. Negotiations remained stagnant until Thanksgiving weekend at which point a tentative agreement was reached granting the players as much as 51% of basketball-related income and as little as 49$, entirely based on performance.
While the players argued they were the league’s primary attraction, they seemed to neglect the role played by owners in league management and their enormous losses seemed irrelevant, establishing the question, when did they forget that they were at their core, entertainers?