Tuesday, November 15, 2011

David Stern Doesn't Understand Diplomacy

If David Stern would take some time out to watch the movie A Few Good Men the NBA lockout would be over. There's a scene where Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) goes to Cuba to get some information from Colonel Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) about a code red. After some bantering back and forth Kaffee asks Jessup for the information and Jessup responds firmly, "I'll help you anyway I can, but you have to ask me nicely." In other words show me some respect.

The fundamental flaw in David Stern's negotiating tactics is that he doesn't understand how his condescending tone and Napoleonic complex is rubbing players the wrong way. Ultimatums, deadlines, and threats of worse things to come have created a hostile environment and driven a wedge between the two negotiating sides. There is so much animosity right now an NBA season isn't even remotely a possibility.

To the average fan this dispute is all about money. Greedy billionaires vs. spoiled millionaires with a misguided sense of entitlement. Although this may be true it is not the underlying issue. The two main forces at work during this dispute are perception and control.

The players view themselves as partners, not employees of the NBA. Their performance on the basketball court leads to endorsements, corporate sponsorship, jersey sales, lucrative TV contracts, and an international fan base. In their minds it is because of their efforts that there's an NBA to begin with.

The owners view the players as pawns in a billionaires chess game. They want to maintain the ability to move their pieces around at their discretion under their set of rules. It screws up the game if the pieces start moving around the board on their own without permission or consent.

The owners are clearly trying to put the players back in their place. After Lebron James walked out on Cleveland to go play with his friends in Miami Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert felt jilted and betrayed. After Carmelo Anthony made it clear he would be going to New York at the end of his contract Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke felt bullied and helpless. In their minds the inmates will no longer run the asylum.

The egos involved in this battle are so enormous the fans have become a complete and total afterthought. The irony is without the fans the two sides have nothing to argue about.

A message to David Stern: Change your tone when you're talking to grown men.

A message to the players: There's a forest behind those trees.

A message to the fans: Don't hold your breath this will get resolved anytime soon.

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