he National Basketball Association locked out its players late this week, in a labor dispute that could wipe out part or all of the 2011-2012 season. The owners want to impose a tougher salary cap, shorter contracts, and guarantee themselves a greater share of the league's income, while players want to protect benefits they had under the old agreement. Which side is really to blame here?
The lockout is the owners' fault: The league pulled in a record $4.3 billion last year, says Dave Zirin at The New Yorker. If the owners can't squeeze profits out of a windfall like that, they have only themselves to blame. One reason they're in this fix is that they signed "bad contracts," forcing them to shell out millions for players who never earned their keep. If the teams just practiced "the very self-discipline that the league preaches to its players," the lockout never would have happened.
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Players simply make too much: The owners aren't angels, says Jemele Hill at ESPN, but "the cold truth" is that the NBA system is broken, and when you have teams that lose less money by shutting their arenas than holding games, something has to give. Fans suffering in this sour economy will have little sympathy for "a staggering $4.8 million, which is the highest average pay of any sports league in the world." Heck, even Rashard Lewis, who's only been an All-Star twice in his 13-year career, pockets $20 million a year. Something's got to give.
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Both sides are being stubborn: The players and owners have known this moment was coming for two years, says David Coleman at SB Nation, yet nobody has shown any willingness to compromise, even a little. As we've seen with the NFL, which is already in its own lockout, "the hard work and compromise won't happen till both sides are pressured by the threat of losing games and money." They'll get serious once the first canceled games start looming in September.
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