You Don’t Matter.
I’m not really concerned with who first started humoring the voice of the fan, or why. We all started as fans; presumably, most of us working somewhere in the business still are. However, it has absolutely no place in this lockout. The knee-jerk reaction to cancelations, of which there will be more today, is “I want my NBA!” or “Come on, let’s save the NBA!”
The problem is that this kind of selfishness plays right into the hands of owners, providing leverage and creating an imbalance in talks that really, have nothing to do with basketball, or how much we love it. Everybody involved in the talks is very rich, and in regular person terms, there’s little difference between millions and billions. But the owners, whose businesses make up the National Basketball Association, are employers, and the players work for them. We fall into this equivocation all the time; we say we’re NBA fans, when what we really means is that we like watching these players compete with the necessary infrastructure in place. We selfishly talk about improving our product as “solving the league’s problems”, and in these grave days, beg for our league back—which, in labor terms, translates into wanting owners to have the opportunity to do business. Fixing the NBA? That means helping the owners, who depend on revenue to stay above water.
What’s lost here is that, no matter how much we may want the NBA back, the players who work for it have a right to negotiate as they see fit. That there are fans whose opinion can be swayed is an unfortunate distraction; we have no say in this, or at least we shouldn’t. People who work for other people are in a vulnerable position, and all that protects them from abuses of power is collective bargaining. Sure, LeBron James doesn’t need our pity. In a way, that’s just as condescending as calling him a spoiled brat. At the same time, the other part of the NBA—besides the owners running businesses that we support—is its workers not being pushed around. It sucks that arena employees (not to mention writers) are losing out on pay. But if millionaires don’t have labor rights, then really, who the fuck does?