Jul 25, 2011, 12:24 PM EDT
They have labor peace over in the NFL. Well, the players have to vote and some league veterans have a lawsuit that could throw a wrench in the works.
But it looks like there will be NFL football in September as had been scheduled. Preseason games (except the Hall of Fame Game) will take place on time, too.
What can the NBA take away from this? What does the NFL labor peace mean for the NBA?
Not much in terms of the deal itself.
But there is one key thing to take away — this puts more pressure on both sides in the NBA situation to reach a deal.
If the NBA is the only league missing games the repercussions will be severe — to lockout and miss games during the greatest recession this nation has seen in generations will anger casual fans in a way no professional sports league has seen before. Some owners (and players) have estimated it would take four to five years to bounce back to current levels if there is only half a season or less. They underestimate the mood of the public. They underestimate how people will react when millionaires and billionaires can’t figure out how to divide up the fans money during a time of record unemployment. When everyone else is trying to get by on less. It doesn’t matter if the owners or players win the public relations battle, both sides will suffer. For many years.
Also, the NBA was always likely to follow the NFL’s lockout arc — a lot of posturing and not a lot of real negotiating until they were close to missing the start of training camps and games. Until there was that pressure, the two sides in the NFL were not going to reach a deal. Until we see that pressure build on the NBA starting in August and getting serious in September, we are not going to see meaningful negotiations. We all knew that. It doesn’t make them not sitting at a table and talking any less frustrating.
In terms of the contract the NFL and its players reached, things are very different with the NBA. At the end of the day, NFL teams were making money, just not as much as the owners used to so they wanted more. In the NBA, the league says 22 of the 30 teams lost money last year. While we can quibble over the accounting, the bottom line is that plenty of teams are not making money and many of those teams are owned by people who paid a premium for those teams and are leveraged. They are coming in with a harder line, and there needs to be changes in the NBA structure.
The NBA and NFL also are different right now in that the players have not decertified the union sued the league. Yet. While some agents like this hardline approach (an effort to gain leverage and force the owners to seriously negotiate), to do it would be to cost games — the NBA’s offseason is much shorter than the NFL’s and the federal courts are not fast. David Stern called it the “nuclear option” and it would be. It would reset the negotiations. It would mean at least half a season lost. It would be messy. So far, union director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher have balked at going down that road, but the option is still on the table.
There is also this — the NFL is the king of revenue sharing. More than 70 percent of league revenue is shared thanks to massive national television deals. In the NBA, it is less than 30 percent. Call it socialist if you want, but the NBA owners have to get serious about this if they are going to make smaller markets more viable. Especially with the Lakers having already inked and the Celtics about to ink massive new local television deals (currently no local television revenue is shared).
On paper the Collective Bargaining Agreement is drawn up on, the NFL ending its lockout means little for the NBA. The financial structures of the two leagues are different and the NBA will never have the parity that makes the NFL work (one player, like a LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki, can change games too much).
But the NFL reaching a deal does put pressure on the NBA brethren to get a deal done. Because if the NBA misses games now, they will get all of the anger and all of the repercussions.
So maybe the two sides should sit down at a table soon and talk. It’s time to get serious about this and stop posturing.
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