Sports opinions

Since July 1, the NBA owners have locked out their players, cancelling all pre-season and several regular season games in the 2011-12 season. Now, with the threat of decertification of the Players’ Association, it is likely that the entire season will be lost.

The lockout was brought about by the NBA owners, in an attempt to pressure the players into signing onto their proposed collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The expired CBA between the owners was one that many players were quite happy with. They received 57 per cent of the Basketball Related Income (BRI), or rather, 57 cents of every dollar that the league made went to the players, and there was a soft salery cap system in place allowing owners to spend above the cap as long as they were willing to pay to do so.

This created a fundamental disadvantage for small market teams who could not exceed the cap and were, therefore, unable to afford quality players. In order to create parity within the league, and to stop small market teams from bleeding money, some argue the salary system has to change.

This is essentially what the lockout is about.

Recently, a group of hardline owners have begun demanding that the league not settle for anything less then 50 per cent of the BRI and a hard cap. It is not surprising that these particular owners have made these demands — given that according to Forbe’s list of NBA team valuations, 17 teams lost millions of dollars in operating income in 2011.

What is surprising is who is leading the charge for the hardliners: none other then “His Airness” himself, Michael Jordan.

Most people recognize Jordan as possibly the greatest basketball player of all time, the inspiration behind the Jordan brand of basketball apparel, and as the face of countless ad campaigns.

Whatever image people conjure in their mind when they think of Michael Jordan, they must inevitably think of him as a basketball player first. They expect him to be on the side of the players and fighting for their rights, much like he did in the last lockout and much like he has done for the majority of his career.
This lockout has changed all of that.

Now he is the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats — a team that, according to Forbes, lost at least $20 million last year. He will no longer be seen solely as the player who, during the NBA’s last labour dispute, in 1998, famously told the late Abe Pollin, then owner of the Washington Wizards: “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.”

Jordan can no longer just be the former player who hangs out with this generation’s superstars, the ones forever trying to fill his shoes — sometimes literally, as representatives for his sneaker brand.

As much as he is trying to fundamentally change the league’s relationship with its players, Jordan’s own image has been changed. For all of his faults and all of his weaknesses, Jordan could never have been called a hypocrite. Until now.

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