Posted by Matt Moore
Unless you started covering it from the beginning, which removes your frame of reference, spend enough time around the NBA and you'll learn the real meaning of "opulence." It's everywhere. From the cars the players drive, to their jewelry, to the locker rooms where they spend a grand total of about four hours every night. It's in the banquet halls and the hotels reserved and the equipment used. It's in the gift bags for friends and media, the free food, the superstar (or Lenny Kravitz) performances, the pyrotechnics, everywhere. It's astounding. Everyone stays at the nicest clubs, eats at the nicest restaurants, travels in the nicest cars and buses.
It's in even the tiniest things. At the NBA Finals, along with All-Star Weekend, the NBA gives away gift bags for the media. A little thank you to say "We appreciate you bringing attention to our business, even though half the time you're jumping on our mistakes like cobras on an injured mouse." This year it was a simple wireless mouse and a mousepad that has the Finals logo on it. A schlocky little thing that was still pretty nice when you think about it being free. I kept it mostly because I wanted to give it to my newborn son when he is older to say "Your father got this at the first Finals he covered."
Tomorrow I'm taking it to the nearest charitable donations joint and dropping it off. Because now it's just a reminder of how opulence wasted has cost 114 people their jobs tonight when it shouldn't have. It's nothing but a guilty reminder of how the mismanagement of resources and revenue can wind up costing real people their jobs, jobs they need. All I can think about is the stacks and stacks of mouses and mousepads, most of which were most likely never claimed, sitting there on a table. How much could have been saved without their purchase, transport, or handling? It's not just a trinket, it's a guilt trip after what the league has decided this week.
From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:
Word of the planning session came as the league laid off 114 employees from its New York, New Jersey and international offices this week in what it described as an ongoing cost-cutting effort aimed at shedding $50 million in expenses. The layoffs represented 11 percent of the league workforce and were felt across multiple divisions. The NBA also closed its offices in Tokyo and Paris.via League, union to hold first post-lockout meeting - CBSSports.com.
The job reductions were "not a direct result of the lockout but rather a response to the same underlying issue — that is, the league’s expenses far outpace our revenues,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement released to media outlets inquiring about the layoffs.
These aren't stats on a page, figures tossed around in an analysis. These are real people. Most of whom probably badly needed this job and unless you know of another professional basketball league happening in the states right now, probably are going to have a hard time making a seamless transition elsewhere.
Now in this economy, that should be easy to forgive. Even as there are signs of a slow recovery, inching along at a snail's pace, that the corner has been turned and there are brighter days ahead, everyone has had to tighten their belt. It should be easy to forgive the NBA for having to go through the same pains as everyone else. But they haven't. They're not struggling to find a consumer base. They're not dealing with dwindling income. They're not drowning as their target audience shifts towards something else. No, instead, attention hasn't been this high since Jordan graced the court. Ratings are up and showing no signs of coming back down. The league is interesting, and marketable, and boy, is it revenue-inducing.
Merchandising is reaching an all-time high. In 2004, they were projected to make $3.3 billion in merchandising sales. The league earns $900 million from their television contracts, and even that's undersold. David Stern reportedly made $23 million last year. Even if he didn't, he made a whole lot more than those 114 people make combined. Eddy Curry made a little short of $12 million last year. Mike Dunleavy Jr. $11 million. I'm not arguing they weren't paid market value. I'm not sayingany of them are overpaid. I'm saying with all of thism oney floating around, with coaches being fined every night, how do you lose the money to pay for 114 people all of a sudden?
There are probably some executives included in the cuts. And the employees were given severance packages. But this was unnecessary. 114 people are out of a job right now, because a professional sports league in 2011 that had its biggest year in a decade, one of the biggest ever, can't figure out how to properly manage its expenses?
I worked for two non-profit organizations during the recession. Both went through the same problems as all non-profits have during the recession. It's not exactly a booming industry. But they planned. They held back. They dipped into reserves. They went into furloughs if they had to, but they avoided firing people. Because this isn't a game, which is what the owners have made this into. The league says this was not impacted by the lockout, a theory exactly zero people believe.
Don't have Lenny Kravitz play at All-Star Weekend during the introductions. Boom, you've just saved five people's job, counting the pyro, production value, and various expenses for travel. Cut back on a few league sponsored parties at All-Star Weekend. Don't cater the bargaining sessions. Hold them at a Motel 6 by the airport (that'll get the deal done faster, I promise you). Do any of these things and you've saved jobs. Jobs people need, who are depending on them. What about all that money from finding Mark Cuban and David Kahn and Phil Jackson? I understand that money went to charity. Couldn't that money have been saved to keep a position? With as much money as is thrown around the NBA, couldn't someone, somewhere have socked away enough cash to let people keep working at their jobs?
While we're at it, why don't we throw in all the money David Stern should have fined Donald Sterling over the past few decades. Wouldn't that have taken the sting out a little bit?
Shane Battier won't be getting his paycheck in the fall. Which means if he doesn't play abroad, or take another position, or find some endorsement money, he'll have to dip into his mountainous reserves. The same for every player. Even the lowest level guys are looking at things getting tight and possibly having to sell one of their multiple cars.
The people that were laid off this week by the NBA, the 114? They're out of a job, now. They didn't have to be, but here they are. Maybe they deserved to be. Maybe their positions were utterly useless. If that's the case, why not just reassign them? Have them work on creating efficiency plans or, I don't know, creative ways to end the lockout. Maybe they were just lazy. Maybe 11 percent of the NBA's total workforce really was just lazy and redundant. But doesn't that reflect the people at the top and their organizational structure more than it does the people who were actually affected by this?
The NBA has a right to run its business towards profit and to act in its own self-interest. But to trot out their opulence time and time agian, to splurge on so many little things that when you add them up it looks like one of those trash mountains from "Wall-E," it's not only off-putting, it's downright nauseating. David Stern has probably frozen his salary during this lockout that they've seen coming for two years. Maybe if he'd started sooner, those 114 people would still have their jobs.
The owners are grumpy from greed. The players are indignant out of a perceived necessity. The fans are angry on principle and just want their game back.
And 114 people are out of a job tonight, 114 jobs which could have been saved with a little more restraint, a little more compromise, a little more consideration.
Just like the lockout.