It isn’t the economy, stupid

“But we have been in a recession. The only thing that hasn’t gone down are players’ salaries.” — Charles Barkley, October 11, 2011

Chuck is not alone in echoing a Stern sentiment: NBA players should also tighten their belts, what with the economy and all. To be technical, America isn’t currently in a recession. The country is also not exactly thriving after its 2008 implosion. Fair to say “fallen and I can’t get up,” isn’t necessarily better than “falling.” Wall Street is occupied for a reason.

But I’m not sure America’s economic downturn is germane to a lockout negotiation. Owners will want more money, regardless of pie size. Same goes for the players across that table. Writers can hand-wring over how recession-smacked fans might view this, but the economy has not demonstrably hurt pro basketball. To quote Henry’s incisive lockout summary:

“Late Monday night a union official laughed at Stern’s talk of the state of the economy, noting ‘the NBA’s economy doesn’t stink.’ Even after players are paid, the NBA now brings owners a billion or so dollars more, every year, than it once did.”

Recent NBA television ratings have been floating higher than helium-farting condors. In general, sports are a’ booming. Perhaps this success has been stoked by social media and perhaps it’s just because the pinched seek distractions. But unless David Stern can clearly demonstrate how a bad economy is bad for his owners, it’s a convenient falsehood. And no, the Maloofs don’t count. That Palms business was some extracurricular self-immolation.

For now, it sounds like the disaster capitalism referenced in Jeff Magregor’s fiery lockout piece. The concept of “disaster capitalism” was the leitmotif of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, a book that chronicled how the wealthy profit from the social paralysis that happens during and after massive disasters. Klein tried to cram too many events into her over-arching theme, but it’s not hard to see why: This is an oft-repeated phenomenon. Powerful people so frequently cite awful events as the imperative for doing what they would favor under any circumstance.

A helium farting condor is attacking the town! I need your lunch money! It’s an especially big condor! Guh, for, um, condor repellent!

Will such chicken little-ing help owners? That depends on whether the players accept this panic paradigm.


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  1. [...] Because as much as this has to do with those of us that buy sneakers, this has nothing to do with those of us that buy sneakers. So unless there is an offer to bring fans to the negotiating table, quit using fans as leverage in these negotiations. This lockout is about the NBA, its money, and its inability to divvy up billions of dollars in the midst of a crippling economy. [...]

  2. [...] I quoted Charles Barkley’s “The only thing that hasn’t gone down (in the recession) are players’ salaries,” because it’s an oft-echoed statement. What strikes me about the quote is what Barkley elided from his economic assessment: The guys who write the checks saw their salaries blast off. [...]

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