NBA lockout should be final insult to fans

Players from 14 National Basketball Association teams showed up at their training facilities Tuesday to mill around, sign autographs and badmouth owners. When the collective bargaining agreement between NBA owners and the players’ union expired on July 1, the league instituted a lockout. Three months later, the two sides have made little progress. The players still want to play, but the owners will not let them on the courts. The owners want the season to get going, but the players fail to recognize that the league must stand on fiscally solid foundation. Both sides claim they want a fair settlement of the matter. Both sides claim the other is being greedy and unreasonable. Both sides think the other will give in. Both sides have forgotten the fans and we need to do something about it.
As it stands, player salaries use up 57 percent of the NBA’s $1.7 billion in annual revenue, which means the average NBA salary is $2.8 million. Coupled with the other expenses associated with owning and running a professional basketball team, owners’ profit margins have been shrinking, and when teams slip into the red, goodbye NBA.
Union representatives, including their leaders Patrick Ewing and Billy Hunter, will meet with owners on Thursday. NBA Commissioner David Stern has already cancelled the entire preseason and if an agreement is not reached in the next few days, the league will start shortening the regular season, perhaps eliminating the whole thing. They both want more money. But the fans will have to pay for it.
To hell with them both.
The fans are a legitimately interested third party in this situation. No matter which side wins we are going to lose, finding higher prices at the arenas when all is said and done. The time has arrived for collective bargaining for the fans. We are the ones that end up paying for exorbitant salaries. We spend outlandish amounts on tickets. We buy the extremely overpriced hotdogs and beer at the games. Our taxes subsidize the construction of new arenas. All we have to show for this is a potentially cancelled season as players and owners bicker about the kind of money that most of us will never see.
When Major League Baseball went on strike, we were bitter for a while, but came back to the game offering forgiveness despite the offenses. Let us not make the same mistake with the NBA. When they finally get things settled, without our input, it will be our turn to go on strike against all professional sports. Tell them we have had enough.
Let them see how long they can last without us. Do not go to a Vikings game. Flip past the Bulls on WGN. Boycott products with overpaid sports professionals as sponsors. Completely ignore these millionaires who are paid to play games. It will be painful, particularly during the World Series and on Superbowl Sunday, but we must stand resolute. Professional sports have forgotten that they are doing it for the fans, and they need to be reminded. Once we have a seat at the bargaining table, we can return some sanity to the sporting world, and going to a baseball, football or basketball game will be something an average family of four can afford and count on every season.