Race And The NBA Lockout

In a few hours, barring any extension the NBA owners will be locking out the players for the first time in 12 years. The last lockout reduced the season to 50 games and cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars.

With the national economy in poor shape and money going everywhere but to where it’s most needed, most of the American public will reserve little pity for “pampered athletes” in a League that for the most part issues guaranteed contracts.

And is about 80 percent Black.

Say what you will, but we both know that across America there some people that are really bothered by the potential NBA lockout for reasons that stretch further than this spring’s dynamic playoff basketball.

In times like these the last thing people in America want to hear about is some multi-millionaire going through a work stoppage for more money – Black muliti-millionaires to be more specific. And while the NFL has its share of characters, they’ve received some public sympathy due the recent effects of playing a violent sports while playing with non-guaranteed contracts.

The NBA isn’t that simple.

The locker room of an NBA team is a place to observe. In that tiny space, you have 12-15 separate businesses working at one time – some together, most individually. Each one is looking to maximize on his worth. Egos that were nurtured in AAU Leagues and on college campuses have reached full maturation in the NBA.

The NBA has made an effort to promote everything from a uniform dress code to controlling trash talk via anti-gay PSAs. It all points to “putting these young Black players in their place”. Hell, a player has to do at least one year of college or be 19 years of age before he can enter the NBA Draft.

Thank God for the Euro-League.

There was no thought of a dress code until Allen Iverson purchased every white tee and fitted New Era cap in the Philadelphia area. The anti-gay PSA was born when the face of the league Kobe Bryant referred to referee Bennie Adams as a term that used to mean a “bundle of sticks”, Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah would make the same transgression about a month later to a fan that used derogatory remarks about his mother. The NBA made $150,000 from those two incidents. Ironically, nothing has been done to curb the use of the N-word which in a League of predominantly Black players gets passed around like a spliff on 4/20.

Of the four major sports the NBA is the only League where the perception is that the players call the shots. Coaches get fired for the grip they have on their locker room or the lack thereof. If a coach squeezes too tight he’s not being receptive and if he’s too loose – he has no control.

I have no clue what  John Kuester,  former coach of the Detroit Pistons,  was thinking when he inexplicably sat the team’s leading scorer Rip Hamilton for more than a month. In a game against Philadelphia in late February Hamilton along with several other players skipped the team practice and the game. Kuester had only six players available and was ejected early in the contest much to the delight of Tracy McGrady and other players that could be seen laughing as Kuester made his exit.

The tipping point came last summer when LeBron James’ media production of his “Decision” to join Dwayne Wade in Miami made James the object of hate nationwide. Not only with fans but Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s comments teetered on racism. Part of what the owners want in the CBA is to avoid another “Decision” by removing “sign and trades” along with exemption picks by implementing a “hard salary cap” ($2 billion total for the League).

When you hear people talk about the NBA today they say they can’t get into it because the quality has been reduced to “hotdogging” or “streetball” is commonly used. But while the fundamentals of the game are more absent now than ever before the game is at the height of its popularity.

As far as the general public’s overall feeling about the lockout – I believe that if the NBA went away for a year, only the hardcore fans would suffer. As for the remainder, there would be pats on the back of these owners for standing up to “these players.” And when they say “these players” they don’t mean Dirk Nowitzki, they mean LeBron James, they’re not referring to Steve Nash but rather Kobe Bryant. The NBA is 80% Black, and while David Stern gets kudos for being a worldwide ambassador for the sport – that 80% will take its lumps for everything wrong with the League, character issues aside.

That onus should placed at the feet of the owners.

15 Responses to “Race And The NBA Lockout”

  1. j-mizzel says:

    Great article. True.

  2. kos says:

    Good article, Ron. It’s official. The NBA is now in a lockout.

    You’re definitely right. At first I heard about the greedy players in the NFL, but then the tied turned. I guess because folks wanted to see Peyton, Brees, Brady, and the like played. On the NBA side, there’s…..Jimmer???!!!

    Everyone who visits this site knows that there are no white American born superstars in the NBA right now to help the white American fan feel a connection. That’s the thing that’s going to kill the players in the media.

    I for one would like to see this worked out ASAP, but not at the expense of the owners getting over on players. Yeah, the owners may have had a loss as far as operating costs, but no one that knows sports think that those cats lost money. Merchandising, media, sweetheart deals with their stadiums……heck, the owners are the ones that always get over. Yet, for the most part, the stories written are about what a great deal the players have and how they make too much!

  3. Dez Nash says:

    Excellent article. On point. thank you.

  4. Matthew Fudge says:

    Ron-as God as my witness, I didn’t read this before writing my FB reply. LOL

  5. Chris Blocker says:

    Sad, but true. I’ve said in mixed company that it’s a racial play but few will acknowledge it.

  6. TheLastPoet says:

    Well written, Mr. Glover.

    The buzzword for these labor negotiations is “profit certainty” for the owners.

    Ok. Would someone please explain to me how in a market economy where risk is systemic that any business owner should be “guaranteed” profits?

    In any industry, owners charge customers the highest price the market will bear for their product; likewise their employees, the smart ones, usually demand the highest wage for their services. Somewhere in between, minus the cost of production and if the owners are otherwise lucky, there may be a profit for the owners involved. However, unless their product is popular and/or they are clever marketers, then no part of this process can “guarantee” a profit. Not in a free market economy. The “free” in “free market” means you are free to make choices which directly determine your success or failure. I’m afraid this applies to the NBA, too, as much as its owners would like you to believe otherwise.

    But because the players are Black and the owners, save Mike Jordan, are white, then the basketball viewing public will ignore this basic business lesson, which also happens to be a cornerstone of our American way of life, and side with yet another set of wealthy whitefolk who do nothing but laugh at you and think what a fool you are while they take your frustration to the press, and your money to the bank.

  7. Excellent read, and I agree 100% with the NBA taking measures to “keep these black players under control,” with the dress code especially.

    However, I’m not sure I agree with paragraph:

    “As far as the general public’s overall feeling about the lockout – I believe that if the NBA went away for a year, only the hardcore fans would suffer. As for the remainder, there would be pats on the back of these owners for standing up to “these players.” And when they say ”these players” they don’t mean Dirk Nowitzki, they mean LeBron James, they’re not referring to Steve Nash but rather Kobe Bryant. The NBA is 80% Black, and while David Stern gets kudos for being a worldwide ambassador for the sport – that 80% will take its lumps for everything wrong with the League, character issues aside.”

    Now, I am a hardcore fan (and white), but I really haven’t heard any fans, black or white, siding with the owners and congratulating them for standing up to “these players.” I have heard people agree that maybe the contracts shouldn’t be as big or guaranteed for as long, but the majority of what I’m hearing from fellow fans, regardless of race, is that the owners pretty much did this to themselves by handing out ridiculously high contracts to mediocre at best players.

    Maybe it’s just the people I talk to, but I haven’t heard anyone taking the owners’ side. I hear more of it was the owners’ own stupidity that got them in this mess.

    Excellent read though, for sure.

  8. Jerold Wells Jr says:

    @LP That Economics lesson was ON POINT. Thank you kind sir. The numbers dont add up. World Wide popularity…. a bevy of superstars (Dirk and Nash to satisfy the Great White Hypeish types) TV contracts….. a web site that is actually good…. the league is making money. The game of pro basketball is flourishing. Owners, all wealthy men, want to make more money from what amounts to side hustles? Of all the owners, which made their sizable personal fortunes in sports? Few if any. Also, of the small market teams, who purchased teams in those areas thinking that it was going to be a way to make money in large amounts?
    Basketball is profitable because of the stars. Sit in an arena when Kobe/LeBron/the Celtics come to town. It’s electric. The players make the game, moreso than Football or Baseball where traditional rivalries and loyalty to a city takes precedence.
    Why then a push to take money and thereby influence out of the players hands?
    I heard Ric Bucher say that owners want to avoid more Miami Heat situations, where players pool thier talent and take more control over where they play while still maximizing their incomes. Interesting.

    Last thing, Rashard Lewis. Gilbert Arenas and Vince Carter are 3 of the 10 highest paid players in the league. With them comprising 3 of your starting five you’re not even guarenteed a playoff spot, in either conference. They didn’t sign themselves to those contracts.

  9. Julius says:

    Some of these posts are idiotic. Every major sport, including white-dominated hockey, has had a lockout or a labor strike. And it’s always about the money. The correlation with the majority skin color in the sport is weak. There is not one convincing argument I’ve seen put forth here that sounds anything different than racial conspiracy theory propaganda. There has never been an instance in any sport where the owners didn’t exert all the tools at their disposal to maximize their profits.

  10. MODI says:

    “There has never been an instance in any sport where the owners didn’t exert all the tools at their disposal to maximize their profits.”

    Julius, having had this discussion numerous times over beers, I respectfully agree and disagree. First agree: One of the “tools” at owners disposal is white public perception toward black athletes, and there is a good deal of evidence that there is a much less empathy for black athletes than white athletes. This regularly shows up in polls on opinions of athletes (and non-athletes) when race is a factor. But regular perusing through sentiments in sports comment sections will also bear this out.

    And in recent years, baseball — and not basketball or football — has received by far and away the most favorable labor agreements (long-term guaranteed contracts, no hard cap, etc.). The greater the resevevoir of white tolerance toward players, the longer a good deal could be worked out. I’d also say that whiteness helps the recovery process. Do I believe baseball bounces back the same way headlined by two stoic black men such as Cal Ripken and a Mark McGwire. i don’t think so. And if players know that the recovery process will be that much harder, it plays a role at the negotiating table.

  11. MODI says:

    And disagree: There have been many instances where owner didn’t exert all the tools at their disposal to maximize profits. Most notable is the integration of baseball. Branch Rickey made an absolute killing, and all the signs were there for any owner to see. Both black and white players were making more in interracial barnstorming games than they were during any regular season games. Satchel Paige and Bob the Bob Feller all-stars were raking it in. The Annual Negro League East-West game was pulling in 50,000 all black fans every year. even after integration many teams like the Red Sox chose racism over easy profits. The fools had first crack at Jackie and Willie Mays.

    Now I’d fast forward to 1994 baseball strike. the owners lost BILLIONS and completely came out worse off than the players. What went wrong? I would say ego.

    Finally, I personally watched my beloved Yankees stumble throughout the 1980’s despite the highest payroll in baseball every year. Why? Because of Steinbrenner’s impulses effing it all up every year. Firing managers at whims, the columbus shuttle, trading good prospects for short-term fixes. it was only after Steinbrenner’s suspension that the yanks started a new homegrown strategy.

    Now did Steinbrenner want to win? Of course he did. More than humanly imaginable. But despite the big bucks, the man’s gargantuan ego and impulses got in the way of his own team’s very best interests.

    I would suggest that nearly all owners have similar characteristics as steinbrenner, but are just more muted. these are people who get whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want for most of their adult lives. If they want a new stadiun for free they even get that too. They are the ultimate divas that are not in touch with reality. It is no stretch at all to see how their over-sized egos — whether racially-based or otherwise — would not interfere with their very singular objective of the bottom line. There are many more examples.

  12. Temple3 says:


    I do find it strange that many Black conservatives posit that owners (regardless of race) always seek maximum cash returns. On the question of white supremacy and institutionalized systemic favoritism based on race, it should be obvious on its face that “racism” is inefficient. If owners were always self-interested rational actors, they would seek to optimize revenues across the board in a consistent fashion — inclusive of anticipated losses due to white consumer backlash.

    Thomas Sowell wrote extensively about how northern industrialists sought labor from Europe rather than hire and promote fully the skilled black laborers of the post-slavery South. I guess when commenters don’t read their own heroes, confusion is inevitable.

    Sometimes “race” trumps cash. No pun intended.

  13. MODI says:

    “inclusive of anticipated losses due to white consumer backlash”

    Excellent point. Hadn’t thought of that. And it looks like neither have the owners.

  14. eric daniels says:

    Great article and very true the NBA owner claim 22 teams are losing money when Forbes reported it was 3-5 teams actually losing money and I will bet it is in small markets. The owners really want more than givebacks of 9 billion dollars , they want to control player movement and the right of first refusal so people like Dan Gilbert , the De Vos or the Miller families stop losing superstars when they paid at least 300 million dollars just to see their star players go bye- bye to bigger NBA markets. The owners see the players colluding where they want to play and they don’t want the slaves determining their worth in the marketplace.

  15. Phil Deeze says:

    Great article. The problem, in general, with the NBA aside from being a majority black league is that a LOT of white people just are uncomfortable with a bunch of black guys making that much money.

    Even though a black kid’s got a better chance of being a doctor or a lawyer than being an NBA player. It’s still too many black folks getting paid.