It’s now official. After many unsuccessful meetings between the owners and the players’ union, David Stern has officially canceled the first two weeks of the 2011-2012 season. 100 games have been canceled between the span of November 1st and November 14th. Yesterday served as the deadline to reach a new collective bargaining agreement and to maintain a full season. It’s unlikely that there will be any more negotiations this coming week, which means more waiting time for fans. David Stern, after the meeting, said that the players and owners were, “very far apart on virtually all issues. … We just have a gulf that separates us.” Players’ union president, Derek Fisher, agreed and said, “This is not where we choose to be. We’re not at a place where a fair deal can be reached with the NBA.”
The owners told the players that they must accept a 50-50 BRI in order to create a new bargaining agreement. The players had already decreased their offer of accepting 57 BRI to accepting a 53 BRI, but the owners don’t seem to acknowledge any form of compromise. The players seem to want a season much more than the owners, because the owners have decided to play the “waiting game.” They’re hoping to get what they want by using the players’ paychecks as leverage. They figure once the players miss their first few paychecks, they’ll cave and agree to whatever deal the owners have in mind. This is quite a condescending view especially since the players have adamantly stated that they plan to “Stand United.” The owners believe their offer is completely fair, which could be the case, but at this point the difference in the offers is a matter of 3% BRI. In the grand scheme of things, this small percentage is still millions of dollars, but if the owners were truly serious about having a full season, they could have compromised. Watch the video below (by clicking on the picture) to see ESPN analyst Chris Broussard discuss what else the owners and players don’t agree on:
The fact that this upcoming season will be shortened isn’t exactly a surprise to fans. However, this next phase of discussions (whenever they actually happen) is crucial. Fans still expect a season. Fans want a season. If the owners were so stubborn to not change their offer and therefore let the season slip away, the NBA probably would not be able to recover. Ratings were at an all-time high during the playoffs and at the end of the season, and if there is no season, the NBA’s popularity and ratings will suffer greatly. Fans are frustrated with both the owners and the players. There was a poll on ESPN, which asked “Which side is more responsible for the NBA labor impasse?”. Last time I checked, there was a total of 23,944 votes. 50% of all votes said that the blame was equally shared between the owners and players. 28% of all votes said that just the owners were to blame, and 22% said the players were to blame. Fans are past the point of figuring out which side is being unfair. Earlier in the summer when the lockout wasn’t as serious, fans could truly analyze the situation and see whether the owners or the players should be blamed for the lockout. However, at this point, fans just want a season, so it doesn’t really matter what side caused the frustration of this whole situation. As a result, half of the fans around the nation blame both sides for this mess.
On that note, it seems as though the fans have not been considered at all in this process. It would require a sort of selflessness amongst the owners and players to realize that fans drive revenue, so they should be considered when discussing a new agreement. However, selflessness doesn’t seem to be common in that crowd. The owners and players have not had to have a sense of urgency and this alone has caused stress and angst for fans. The NBA is no longer about the “love of the game” and providing excellent entertainment for fans. This lockout has shown that no one cares about the fans anymore, and clearly, the “love of the game” isn’t enough to save the season. The owners and players have set up a vicious cycle for themselves. The longer the lockout goes on, the fans become more and more frustrated, and if there ever is a season, the NBA will have already lost some of its fans due to the owners’ and players’ inability to compromise. J.A. Adande, a sports writer for ESPN, said that the main point that fans need to know about this lockout is, “Don’t believe what’s being offered to you.” The owners and players have already limited what information they release to the public about their discussions, and according to Adande, even if they did, fans shouldn’t believe them anyway. This could also mean that no matter what fans hear about this lockout, ultimately, the situation could be much worse than it actually seems.
When will the NBA season start then? Stern has suggested that if more weeks need to be canceled, it will come more easily and more quickly than this time. He also suggested though that now that the first two weeks have been canceled, it’s unlikely that this would lead to losing the entire season. Should fans believe this? According to Adande, no way. It’s extremely likely that more weeks will be canceled. The whole month of November is likely to be canceled, but what about Decemeber? There’s a chance that there will be some NBA games before Christmas, but it’s probably more likely that the season will start in January. Once November starts and the players and owners aren’t experiencing their normal routines during the season (especially like getting paychecks), they will realize a deal must be reached. This sense of urgency will certainly be delayed, but I guess it’s better late than never.