Basketball’s pay dispute: the 1 percent at war with the 1 percent
Along with the rest of America, we are suffering from a strange and unfamiliar shortage of very tall, heavily-tattooed men prepared to play basketball several times a week in exchange for large amounts of money.
The NBA, the world’s foremost league, is in the midst of a crippling labour dispute. At issue: exactly how extortionate the wages paid to its outrageously-talented stars ought to be. Already, the entire pre-season has been cancelled. So too have fixtures scheduled for November, including the Thanksgiving encounters which traditionally provide light relief from the patriotic duty of eating large amounts of deep fried turkey (yes, really) and socialising with relatives you don’t spend enough time with.
US fans are wearily familiar with labour disputes (the latest developments in this one are here). An entire year of MLB baseball was lost in the nineties. And industrial action from NFL players was called off just days before this year’s American football season got underway. But in LA, the absence of the NBA hits particularly hard. For this is at heart a basketball town. The local side, the purple and gold Lakers (colours above) represent the nation’s most successful franchise of recent years, with a nickname, “Showtime,” reflecting both their athletic flamboyance and the fact that the crowd at an average fixture contains more Hollywood A-listers than a red carpet on Oscar night.
The current dispute, of course, revolves squarely around money. Players, who earned an average of $5m last year, want more. NBA franchise owners, whose clubs are worth several hundred million dollars (even before other assets are considered) would like to pay them less. Loyal fans, as well as the minimum-wage employees who sell courtside hotdogs and tear tickets, are naturally the ones who suffer. They have nothing to gain from this mutual display of greed.
A few hundred yards from the Staples Center, where the Lakers play their home games, is the Occupy LA encampment. There, people will tell you that basketball’s Autumn of discontent speaks not just to the over-commercialisation of sport, but also the dysfunctional state of capitalism. As several hundred very tall multi-millionaires argue with several dozen greedy billionaires over how to divide up their wealth (while the rest of us twiddle our thumbs) it’s hard not to wonder if they have a point.Tagged in: Cheerleaders etc, LA life
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