NBA PM: Is Stern Poisoning the Well?
A couple breaks up. There’s hard feelings on both sides and each party is eagerly looking to take as many friends away from the relationship as possible. They reach out to sympathetic ears, plead their case and hope that the world that once insulated them during the relationship stays intact. Essentially, it’s a race to get everyone on your side because you know the opposition is rapidly doing the same thing.
The current state of the NBA lockout has a lot of similarities to a breakup with one major exception: We know the couple (in this case, the players and the owners) is getting back together. It’s just a matter of when.
But the fact that a new collective bargaining agreement is a forgone conclusion (this can’t go on forever, right?) hasn’t stopped commissioner David Stern from conducting as many interviews as possible to push public (and the players) opinion in his favor. WFAN, The Dan Patrick Show, NBA TV are among the stops on Stern’s media tour, but the more and more he speaks, the more he risks sounding like the jealous ex-girlfriend trying to ensure her popularity.
“I think it’s fair to say that [union executive director Billy Hunter's] depiction of our motives, our offers, the state of the negotiations is inaccurate,” Stern told Patrick, as translated by CBSsports.com’s Ben Golliver. “We have players playing overseas risking an injury for a payday. It’s very sad.”
Stern’s words have been met with a great deal of skepticism, and it’s that type of reaction that the players are hoping to avoid. The union wants the public’s sympathy, but they don’t want to seem like they’re asking for it.
“We’re not trying to win the PR war,” NBPA director of communications Dan Wasserman told Lindsay Stein of PR Week. “We’re trying not to lose it.”
The NBPA wants players to be considerate of fans and peripheral NBA employees who are missing the regular season, and that means Tweeting, blogging and all interviews must be conducted with some self-awareness.
“We are very conscious of the fact that one unfortunate remark can be catastrophic to our efforts because ultimately the players are often painted with one brush, fairly or not,” Wasserman said.
That’s why Chris Paul and union president Derek Fisher helped launch the “Let Us Play” campaign on Twitter, Stein writes. It’s a concise, easy to understand message that resonates with fans and drives home the point that the players want to play.
Wisely, the NBA has adopted that same attitude toward social media.
“The NBA has been putting out information through their social media channels, managing partner of Catalyst Public Relations Bill Holtz told Stein. “Are fans as perceptive to it as hearing from the players? My guess is probably not. But to its credit, the NBA seems to be trying to share information.”
And because the NBA can’t make the same social media traction that the players can, Stern continues to point the finger from afar. Maybe his accusations are right, but it’s hard to believe that the contempt he’s brewing won’t ultimately prove damaging to his own cause. After all, this couple is going to reunite eventually, open wounds or not. Is it really worth poisoning the well?
In Case You Missed It
In the midst of one of professional sports’ most-heated labor disputes, it’s time for a moderate voice of reason to bring everyone to their senses. That voice doesn’t belong to Dennis Rodman, but he talked to the Associated Press on Thursday anyway.
“I think the players should bow down,” he said while attending the draw for Sunday’s Pattison Canadian International.
“It’s not the players’ fault, it’s the owners fault and I think (the players) should give a little bit,” he continued. “And that way, things will move on.”
So Rodman blames the owners, but thinks the players need to compromise because they’re the ones that really care about the game, right?
“Most players don’t give a damn about the game,” Rodman said. “They want the money and all of the sudden they want unity. I’m not taking the owners’ side. I think the players should look at themselves.”
So Rodman is not on the owners’ side, but he thinks the players don’t care about the game and need to do all the compromising? Honestly, that sounds a little like the owners’ “side.”
A Refreshing Perspective
If Rodman’s input didn’t do it for you, two current power forwards offered some common sense to Andrew Kamentzky of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
“It’s hard to pick a side when it’s billionaires fighting against millionaires,” Timberwolves star Kevin Love said. “I mean, it’s no secret that’s what’s going on here. I think in any lockout, people are gonna be disheartened in that way, because that is the case.”
Clippers star Blake Griffin shares Love’s perspective.
“It’s disappointing we can’t be out there playing,” he said. “We’re nothing without our fans. The fans make the game and we want to be out there playing for them.”
From both players’ perspective, the best thing they can be doing is keeping basketball in the forefront of America’s collective mind. It’s easy to ignore a vacant NBA season when baseball is in its postseason and the NFL is underway. So the smattering of charity games is helping to dampen the effects of another labor dispute, which is something both players can admit fans do now want to see.
“I think a lot of players have been doing a good job of keeping the slogan up that basketball never dies,” Love said. “And with all these games they’ve been playing, tying to integrate the fans and really keep them focused and keep them happy with basketball.
“It might not be NBA basketball,” he continued, “but you’re getting a chance to see a lot of NBA players in these games. Just trying to keep them excited as much as possible, so when the time comes we’re right where we left off as far as the fan base goes.”
It’s a bit of a cliché to hear the owners or players discuss the fans. Yet Love and Griffin can do it without seeming phony because they’re young enough to remember what it’s like to be a fan. And it’s that exact type of humanity that fans are looking for in situations such as these because the public knows no one is lobbying for its interest inside these labor negotiations.
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