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Sportswriters and the NBA lockout blame game

Sportswriters keep worrying about what destruction the NBA lockout will have on the fan, the hardcore and casual observer. They need not worry because of a number of reasons. Corporate America (and maybe Canada too in Toronto) has not pulled any support for the league and as John Nash, who was then the General Manager of the New Jersey Nets in 2000 pointed out it is corporate support not hardcore fans that is footing the bill in the arena for NBA owners and players.

"Cost is obviously a factor and it is directly related to players’ salaries," said Nash at that time. "The players get 53 percent of the gross revenues by virtue of the agreement they made with the NBA. And as their salaries go up, the revenues streams necessarily have to go up."

In 2000 Nash and other sports executives were asking the same question. Were ticket prices hitting a plateau? The answer was no as ticket prices continue to escalate shifting the culture and social class inside of the arena to a high income "fan" and leaving behind the real sports lovers.

"That's a great question and I think every year teams have to decide for themselves," Nash said. "What has happened in many cases is that corporations have become our top customers as opposed to the everyday fan who cannot afford either the time commitment of 41 games or the cost."

In the late 1990s prior to a New Jersey Nets game, I asked David Stern about the percentage of people who attended an NBA who just decided to "walk up" and buy a ticket at the spur of the moment and Stern said nearly none. NBA owners wanted tickets purchased far in advance.

Only one marketing partner to this point has said anything about the lockout. A beer sponsor is withholding advertising dollars until the lockout ends.

It could very well be that Time Warner's Turner Sports and the Disney Company's ESPN division are not paying for missed games along with the carriers of the NBA complete game package but Dolan has not rebated a nickel to customers who whether they want to or not get the Madison Square Garden Network package.

If you subscribe to basic expanded tier cable TV you get regional sports networks whether you want them or not. That is because of the 1984 cable TV legislation which seems to violate antitrust laws in that multiple system cable TV operators can bundle networks like (using the 1984 cable network sheet) CNN, the Weather Channel and ESPN onto a tier, negotiate prices with the networks and then pass the cost onto the subscriber who has just one choice. Take the expanded tier or forget about it.

It is Ronald Reagan's cable TV socialism as he signed the legislation into law. Subscribers cannot pick and choose what they want to buy and get a non-itemized bill as well. Consumers have no idea as to what costs are passed onto them.

Reagan presided over a massive shift of dollars from taxpayers who have no interest in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, college football and basketball along with other college sports, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, NASCAR, golf and tennis and the Olympics. That all happened in a two-year period and it is well documented in terms of how many stadiums and arenas were built on the taxpayers’ dime and how much cable TV money flows into sports.

The so-called billionaires versus millionaires fight could not take place without politicians rewriting laws that benefit sports owners. Stadium/arena building was supposed to spark economic development and create jobs. It hasn't and some cities have been left saddled with huge debts like Harrison, New Jersey based on the notion of you build it they will come. There is more to they will come as Harrison has found out with the financial white elephant soccer stadium that is draining municipal dollars.



 

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