Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SPORTS: Seeking a Solomonic Solution; Shaping and Sharing Social Responsibility

At this time of the year I would be watching the NBA games. I would also be enjoying my subscription to the NBA League Pass (Broadband) which allows me to watch games not shown on TV from anywhere through my computer and Internet access.

My barber does the same so we get to discuss, analyze and sometimes wager a few bucks to make it more exciting. Others in the barbershop more often than not also join the fun.

I am also reminded of a standing invitation by a friend in Los Angeles to visit and watch the Laker games. He is a season ticket-holder.

Well, it is not happening now! Why? The NBA Lockout is going on and no agreement between the owners and the players is in the offing. There is now several weeks’ delay in the schedule and if a solution is not found soon, the season could be totally cancelled.

While the effect on me, my barber, and others in the barbershop has a definite impact, it is not really as bad and as significant as the unintended consequences to certain people in particular, and the society in general.

One example was cited by Michael Lee of the Washington Post; “Had the Washington Wizards started the season on time last Wednesday, Donte Hance would have arrived at Verizon Center about three hours before tip-off, stocked the ice cream, pretzels and cotton candy, and cleaned and set-up equipment in preparation for a busy evening. But since the game against the New Jersey Nets was canceled, Hance was at his home in Baltimore, mostly “sitting around, doing nothing,” but also contemplating whether he should find a part-time job or seek unemployment to make up for monetary losses that will incur as a result of the NBA lockout.”

That’s just one small concessionaire in one NBA franchise. Multiply that by the number of concessionaires in Verizon Center, which is 200, and by the number of NBA franchises and the impact is ever greater.

The Wizards, according to the Lee’s report, “employ between 120 and 170 part-time workers – ushers, security guards, custodians, etc. – for each game at the Verizon Center.”

Again, multiply the number of employees by the number of games and by the number of franchises and you see how big the impact is. If you consider the fact that these people affected have families and kids, the consequences could be devastating.

Indeed, there are economic and social effects to reckon with. Adding more people to the ranks of the unemployed, increasing unemployment benefit claimants and decreasing consumption (sales of tickets, novel items, league passes, and other basketball related income plus the sales in sports bars) are unnecessary additions to the current economic crisis in the United States.

The NBA and other professional sports provide, not just entertainment, but also healing and psychological distractions to the sick, disabled and elderly. Go to hospitals and homes for the aged and the sick. See how watching sports has been providing invaluable entertainment and respite from their pain and suffering.

Owners and players of the NBA have a social responsibility. The greater the resources and the power available, the greater the responsibility is expected of them.

Lockout is a powerful tool made available to the owners used by them to strengthen their bargaining position.  Already considered billionaires, they expect more money added to their pockets. To the owners who claim to be losing money, they can always sell their respective franchises and make a lot more money. There are always ready buyers. The Golden State Warriors, for example, was sold for $450 million, thus netting  the former owner a hefty profit.

The NBA Players union is given collective bargaining rights to fight for the interest of the players. Already considered millionaires, the latter also expect more money added to their pockets. To those who are dissatisfied with the NBA they can always go to another league, right?

Wrong. There is no other one in the United States. There is a virtual monopoly by the NBA in this country. If the players decertify their current union, they would have the right to sue the NBA owners for violating the Anti-Trust Law.

While they would have a good cause, this would take months to have a final verdict, thus – guaranteeing the cancellation of the entire season. Such a cancellation means everybody is a loser – the owners, the players, broadcast companies, suppliers of novelty items and programs, concessionaires (at the arena and in team-identified stores), parking providers, team sponsors, team promoters, full and part-time employees, contractors and most importantly the FANS.

Cancellation should not and could not be an option.  Even for the selfish and the greedy, it cannot be. Avoiding it is a virtual obligation for all who could lose or benefit. A Solomonic solution should be sought. Social responsibility must be shaped and shared.

Under the current agreement, which is due to expire, the share of the players of all Basketball-Related Income (BRI) is 57%. Because many of the owners claim to have incurred losses, the players offered to lower it to 52%.  The owners had initially offered a 57-43 split in their favor but eventually gave a final offer of a 50-50 split on the BRI.

We have seen NBA superstar players agreeing to lower their salaries to accommodate the hiring of other players to strengthen the competitive position of their team. We should also see super profitable NBA Teams sharing revenues and/or profits directly or indirectly with the weaker ones to enhance the financial viability of each team and the value of the league.

Either through mediation, arbitration if necessary, or negotiation  all the parties have the opportunity to shape and share social responsibility in sports making it easier to seek a Solomon-like solution.

Some showing of self-less, sacrificial, and sacred service should be seen!


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