The NFL lockout was a horrible, awful thing, and even thinking about it now makes me want to go punch a horse. But the nice thing about the NFL lockout is that it ENDED, in quite a timely manner, I might add. That wouldn’t appear to be the case with the current NBA lockout, which is still ongoing and shows no sign of ending any time soon.
Obviously, these two labor crises aren’t exactly alike, but they’re alike enough for us to be able to take some lessons from the resolution of the NFL lockout and apply them here:
1) No one does anything until the threat of litigation arises.
If there’s one crucial difference between the current NBA lockout and the NFL lockout, it’s that the NBA Players’ Association didn’t decide to decertify and sue the NBA, as the NFL players did to the NFL. Whatever your thoughts about such naughty union tactics, it’s pretty clear that those machinations helped give the players some leverage over the owners. Right now, the NBA lockout consists of the owners demanding a lot of money from the players, and the players saying, “Uh… no.” That’s how you end up with a 16-hour negotiating session that goes nowhere and features the commissioner calling in sick with the sniffles the next day. Those weren’t serious negotiations, because neither side had a multi-billion dollar judgment hanging over the proceedings.
2) Best to have your negotiations presided over by newbies.
This past NFL lockout represented the first CBA overseen by DeMaurice Smith on the player’s side and Roger Goodell on the owner’s side. For both men, this was a defining moment, and there was great pressure on both men to NOT SCREW UP, lest their careers blow up as a result. But for old hands David Stern and Billy Hunter, this is just another problem meant to be endured rather than solved. Neither man really has anything at stake in this lockout. Stern will still be remembered as the architect of the modern NBA. Hunter will still have his millions from previous years as union head. Neither has anything left to prove, and that’s why neither side is moving.
3) Always have a trump card.
Legend has it the NFL lockout turned when Smith told owners that the players had a $200 million reserve to weather a ruined season. Somehow I doubt the NBA players have a similar fund. Antoine Walker would have embezzled from it ages ago.