(Update: Andrew Bogut managed, in a tweet, to state the case far more eloquently than I did in the post below:
To recap: Donald Sterling buys a professional basketball team in 1981 for $12.5 million. He makes a lot of money along the way, despite the fact that his team is historically bad. He’s universally regarded as a horrible owner for decades. Three years ago, the NBA gifts him one of the five best players in the league, helping to turn the franchise’s fortunes around. According to Darren Rovell, the sale price of the Clippers would have been about $900 million had Sterling decided to sell two months ago. Then a crazy and highly publicized series of events ensue, resulting in his becoming the most disliked man in America. The result: Sterling is going to get a cool $2 billion for his team.
Contrary to what some maniacs want you to believe, it’s a really good time to be rich in America.
I’ve said it before, but I can’t help myself: The next time owners in any collective bargaining negotiation tell you that their franchises are losing money, that they need to rein in costs and so on, PLEASE DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. To be blunt about it, league representatives lie with impunity about their financial circumstances. In this, they are frequently aided and abetted by sports journalists, who tend to accept at face value claims that those journalists should actually be scrutinizing. There is also no comparable dishonesty by the players in these sorts of negotiations. Players unions in collective bargaining do not say – “we’re poor.” They say: “we deserve our fair share of the enterprise’s profits.” It’s a matter for negotiation to determine what that fair share is. But that is the essence of the claim of every union in every sports negotiation. By contrast, owners and leagues are desperate for fans and media to believe that it is actually difficult for them to make money under prevailing circumstances.
And they are essentially always full of it when they make that claim.
Kevin Draper, writing at thedissnba, warned that the NBA players’ association was likely going to want to reopen the CBA, as is their option, in 2017. Draper noted yesterday that the extraordinary increases in NBA franchise values (this was before the announced sale of the Clippers), as well as the NBA’s anticipated huge new TV contracts was going to prompt the players to “demand some of the money they gave back in 2011.”
When that happens, don’t be surprised to find Adam Silver and the NBA trying, with a straight face, to cry poverty.
Call it a tangent if you will, but one more item. I’m currently reading Matt Taibbi’s The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. In discussing the systemic mortgage malfeasance that was at the heart of the financial crisis, Taibbi writes that of all the potential targets of federal prosecution in what amounted to a multi-trillion dollar conspiracy to commit fraud: “there was one mortgage fraud case in which federal prosecutors [used federal racketeering laws]…”
And the target of that prosecution was “a black street gangster named Darnell ‘D-Bell” Bell, who later pleaded guilty to ripping off banks and mortgage lenders by buying homes with no money down using straw buyers.”
Not Bank of America, not Citigroup, not Goldman Sachs, but freakin’ Darnell “D-Bell” Bell.
The game is rigged.