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Chris Paul and the players’ moral paradox

Jul 17, 2011, 8:51 PM EDT

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We can do this one of two ways. The quick and dirty way, or the abstract and more complex way. As usual, I’ll give you the quick and dirty version first.

In an interview with Business Week, Chris Paul revealed the stunning information that the players know how much the lockout affects the fans and wish it didn’t hurt them. He also goes over the usual stuff about how the players just can’t give up as much as the owners want, and that they have a responsibility to further generations of players to protect their earning potential. He’s hopeful they won’t lose games, but he also says some day his son might grow up to need a contract and be proud that his dad fought for him.

You know. That old chestnut.

That’s the quick and dirty version.

Here’s where it gets a bit more complex, once you start to think about it. From Business Week, in Paul’s own words:

All I knew was that there was no basketball, which is why, this time around, it was so hard to walk away from the negotiating table without a deal. I know—we know—how much it affects the fans. And we know that if it weren’t for the fans, there would be no us.

We hate to see something like a lockout take place, but we can’t just take a huge step back. There are so many players that came before us—Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing—who got the game to where it is today. And what about the kids in high school who aspire to be in the NBA? We don’t believe in making sure it’s O.K. for ourselves now, but more difficult for them later.

via Chris Paul on Risking a Lost NBA Season – BusinessWeek.

Basic stuff, right? You’ve pretty much decided how you’ve felt about this. If you’re not associated with a team (in which case your response is much like Bob Hoskins in “Hook,” “What about Smee?!”), or the player’s association (a hearty “Right on!”) then you’re probably left wondering what the big deal is. The players are just protecting their millions and the ability of future players to earn millions while working class people struggle every day. It’s not going to earn your sympathy, nor should it.

But when we take it out of the pragmatic, and into the abstract or philosophical, we have a bit more of a sticky wicket.

Take out the context. Remove the players from what they do for a living, how much they make, the lifestyle they get to enjoy. Don’t even try to make them into something innocuous like plumbers, construction workers, database engineers, or the like. Just remove all of the details from their particular situation and focus on the actual construct of the dilemma they face.

The player’s primary responsibility is to what created them. In this case, that’s the fans. They exist, have meaning, are able to fulfill their dreams only because of this entity which gave them life. (The owners believe they in fact created the players, but this is a fallacy, without the owners, there would simply be another structure which would bring the players to ply their trade in front of the masses.) It’s a symbiotic relationship. The players entertain the fans, who then spend their money to further the players, who then play more, and so on and so on. While it’s true that corporate sponsorships, concessions, and merchandising deals all are third party entities who contribute to the players’ livelihood, those are all driven by the same beings, the creators (fans).

But then you have the descendants, the future players. These players are the same as the current players in every way. They have the same needs, likely the same backgrounds, the same experiences, the same desires. So let’s say the players were to say “You know what, it doesn’t matter. Not losing a year of income is what’s best for me. That’s what I need to do for me.” Can you really justify abandoning future people who you don’t know and who have no say in this debate in order to further your own desires?

Well, that depends on if the harm given to the fans is more important than the harm done to the future players. Or is it greater? Is depriving the people who allow you to do what you do (which is what you both want and need) for up to an entire year worse than harming the people who will come after you who have no say in this process and are depending on you to protect them?

That’s the paradox. They can’t protect the future without harming the present, and they can’t protect the present without harming the future. They can’t do right by the people who give them life (as basketball players) without doing harm to the people who are themselves in the future. They can’t do right by the people who they’re obligated to protect without harming the people they’re obligated to protect.

In reality, very little of this appears to the players. They’re worried about themselves and their pride. They’re worried about ensuring they can sail off into the sunset with as much money as possible. The fans are not at the top of their list of priorities, neither are the NBA players of the future. But if we remove the context of the players’ collective identity, their problem becomes easier to relate to, even if their lifestyle isn’t.

  1. 1historian - Jul 17, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    CP – you are in no way as important as you think you are. We members of the gun-chewing public with whom you sympathize so profusely will be fine, thankyouverymuch.

    Do what you gotta do but don’t fool yourself into believing that it means much.

    Let me put it like this – we can easily get by without you but you CAN’T get by without – our money.

    • theghostofwillisreed - Jul 17, 2011 at 10:38 PM

      You cared enough to respond to this post. Yeah, that’ll show CP3 who the boss is…

    • thatcomicmax - Jul 18, 2011 at 2:54 PM

      1historian- It is you and those like you that are driving this “cut” off my nose to spite my face attitude that is becoming more and more apparent and or wide spread among NBA players.

      You can’t get by without my money???

      The world is the players playground.In the past there were 29 viable options for a player to play for pay. Now ? there are to many team options or “Owners” to even list.

      Players now have the opportunity to play in China , Israel , Russia , France etc… etc.. etc…
      If you think that there are not “World” owners that will be willing to pony up the “big” money contracts for NBA caliber talent your fooling your self. The NFL players have no viable alternative to the League owners “my way or the highway negotiation tactics” But the NBA players???

      What the NBA players CAN get by without is the – unprecedented hatred and many times unwarranted criticism that seems to constantly spew from “non” ethnic fans/ critics / journalists look at the comment section of any sports or for that matter political story and you see the RACIST garbage held back by little more than a computer keyboard … These days if a player who is a free agent decides to re-locate he ‘s no longer the person he was before the “decision” but someone who deserves scorn to be booed rooted against , deserves to have his effort doubted performance number skewed…
      Meanwhile If a Nascar owner and his driver fight in pit row … well that will happen.

      An NBA player gets a speeding ticket …. He’s a problem child

      A Baseball player pulled over with drugs or DUI .. barely a ripple even after being selected Si Young …

      No one is being fooled by these double standards there racist in the effect ( Not necessarily there intent ) But none the less “IT” is that attitude that has these players looking at options that aren’t in the US …

  2. 00maltliquor - Jul 17, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    How super sweet would it be if the lockout went on, say, 1 year/season and when it came to an end we as fans went on a NBA lockout (aka strike) for the same amount of time and didn’t buy any tickets, or any sort of NBA paraphenilia at all just to stick it to them for being so greedy? Overall it would be a 2 year stint and would never happen, i’m just saying.

    • sham13ert - Jul 18, 2011 at 10:25 AM

      Happened to Baseball a couple of years ago, their attendance numbers still aren’t where they once were, but it took them several years to become profitable again…. oh that’s right, they had the home run derby season that brought fans back.

      Now those players are testifying before grand juries.

  3. craigw24 - Jul 18, 2011 at 12:53 AM

    The real irony in all this is that the owners – the people only tangentially mentioned as the 3rd party in this article – are the people with the most power in this dispute. These are the people many, many fans side with. These are the people that will probably get the most out of this dispute – additionally, they want a guaranteed profit out of this contract.

    Somehow, this 3rd party is also not very reputable to me and deserves even less sympathy that do the players. These are the people who want to be saved from themselves. These are the people who have apparently decided that they are willing to lose an entire year in order to break these “upstart” players.

    This is a real mess, but I sure don’t side with the owners.

    • ryanherrington - Jul 18, 2011 at 6:46 AM

      You might want to consider supporting the owners here.

      Profit margins show that almost 2/3 of the NBA teams lost money over the past few years. The NBA did get a ratings boost this past year (probably because everyone was so interested to Lebron fail). But the NBA lags way behind the NFL and is behind MLB.

      The players keep wanting more money while their product is at best rising and falling barely on the mendoza line. The players need to recognize the truth.

  4. goforthanddie - Jul 18, 2011 at 3:06 AM

    “Morality” has nothing to do with it, and Paul’s an idiot for going down that road.

  5. acieu - Jul 18, 2011 at 6:01 AM

    Do you get paid to write this drivel? Most players are interested in how it affects them. As are team owners as for both the future is abstract. To think that a player will nobly forfeit $2.5 million to make it better for the next generation is like saying our current generation is ready to forfeit our current to resolve the national debt. Seems unlikely.

  6. davidly - Jul 18, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    Where would the owners be without the fans? Where would the owners be without the players? And the owners make the most money. You think the fans would benefit if the players buckled to every single whim of the owners? Think again.

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