I've written more than once on this and other spaces that the players have done a terrible PR job in this lockout. They have largely, until recently, left the spin to others.
But now it seems like players are finally starting to throw some punches. After Thursday's Hindenburg ending to the talks, the Union finally started to take shots at the other side. Players seem to be taking that as a cue. Tyson Chandler hit ESPN Radio LA to make some of the most pointed players yet. First he took shots at the owners for their negotiation style.
we’ve given up a lot of points on the BRI, we’ve been ready to negotiate with the system, and I think for the owners to say a take it or leave it deal and we’re not going to talk anymore unless you take this deal 50-50, I think it’s unfair. It’s unfair to the players, it’s unfair to the fans because it’s only going to lead to a longer lockout. A negotiation is a negotiation, and that’s the way it should be, but this is more dictators than anything, and I don’t feel this is going as a negotiation.”
And then he addressed another topic regarding why the 50/50 split isn't fair, and why players should get more than half the BRI
“Well we are the product, and I’ve said from the get go, if the owners want to take that spin than we should take the lockout. The owners, you can’t find any other players like we have in the NBA. You’re not going to find them overseas, you’re not going to find them in college, you’re not going to find them anywhere else. We have the Kobes, the LeBrons, the Durants, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Derek Rose, Blake Griffin — those guys are selling out your arenas night in and night out. There’s a reason the Clippers draw the attendance that they do — it’s because of Blake Griffin. He’s putting the money in the owners pocket. And those guys that are making money, they don’t want to lockout, they don’t want to see this thing drag on. But there are owners in the other cities that aren’t making money, I understand that, and so that’s the reason that we’ve came back so that those owners can at least break even. Now if you put a better product on the floor and you go out in free agency and make some hits and make a splash, then your team will get exciting again and you’ll get some attention and people will start going to your games. But ultimately the players are the product.”
The counter argument is that owners assume all the financial risk of a team, therefore it should reap the financial reward. But I find it hard to argue Tyson's facts. The Clippers are now a draw in the NBA, and they're sure as hell not a draw because of Donald Sterling. In fact, they're a draw in spite of him. Blake Griffin is one of the most exciting players in the league. And while DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon aren't too shabby either when it comes to providing a highlight or two, if Griffin goes down, so the Clippers, and that's irrefutable.
Players are more than employees. They are what the league markets. It's "LeBron and the Heat take on Kobe and the Lakers, next on ABC"... not "Micky Arison's Heat face Jerry Buss' Lakers." And its like that for obvious reasons.
But Tyson Chandler wasn't the only player to take shots. Raja Bell joined the Dan LeBatard show a few days ago and flat-out pinned the blame for stalled talks on David Stern:
commissioner Stern in my personal opinion…I feel like he’s a bit in the way of us making progress here. I feel like he might be in his last few years as commissioner and he is looking to make his legacy on what kind of deal he get can get these owners this time around. I feel strongly about that. I feel like he has been one of the biggest problems in this whole lockout. It’s unfortunate we have not been able to get past that, but as far the racial part of what he said; I don’t necessarily touch on that. I don’t know what David Stern’s motives are. I don’t know how he views us as players. I do think he rules the NBA with an ‘iron fist,’ and it is his way or the highway.
David Stern's legacy is taking a hit in this lockout. There's no doubt about that. The question is, will it be a lsasting blemish on his legacy as commissioner? He's done a lot to get the league to where it is, but he's also doing a lot to tarnish his reputation. It will be interesting to see what the lasting effect here is.
And finally, the money point that all players need to be hitting more often:
I think the NBA has done an awesome job and I have to commend them on this of spinning this in their favor as far as media goes. I think most people who listen to ESPN and listen to TNT and what not…they get what the NBA wants them to get. I always go back to the essence and the basics of it. It is a lockout not a strike. We were in favor of extending the current collective bargaining agreement. Now we understood that the owners didn’t necessarily want that and we wanted to make concessions and try to make our league healthy, but it’s not us on strike. It’s the owners telling us they won’t let us play.
That's the quote that every one of these guys needs to practice over and over again. "we want to play, the owners won't let us." That, along with the "we've given up hundreds of millions of dollars" point needs to be made as often as possible. That way, people get it in their heads that these aren't greedy players holding the game hostage so they can buy more Bentleys.
Slowly, players are getting the word out. Now it's up to the megastars to get their faces out there and say these things. Becasue aside from die-hards like me and other bloggers and journalists, no one gives a damn what Raja Bell and Tyson Chandler say. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James need to be saying it.
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