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The NBA Lockout leads to an Anti-Trust Lawsuit

NBA games are cancelled through December 15th, cutting out at least 26% of professional basketball games, and extending the lockout indefinitely. The owners and the players have been in talks since the summer, trying to reach a deal. The owners want the players to give up a portion of their revenue share: players currently get 57% of the revenue, and owners want them to get 50%. While the players were willing to meet that demand, they made several requests about changes to the system that the owners would not concede. On Tuesday, the players took to the courts and filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the league.

The anti-trust lawsuit could extend the lockout through the entire season, effectively cancelling all of the 2011-2012 NBA games. The players are seeking treble damages, citing the loss of a season to have a strong, deleterious impact on their short NBA careers. David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, had threatened in 2007 to lock the players out for up to two years if the players did not meet his demands. The anti-trust lawsuits, filed in California and Minnesota on behalf of the players, argue that the NBA is violating the Sherman Act.

It’s easy to point at the high salaries of high profile athletes as a sign of everything that is wrong with our society’s priorities, but it does not tell the whole story. Right now, everyone, from contract players with big endorsement deals and comfortable contracts, to rookies desperate to start work and make a mark on the league, to free agents, is out on their ear. The players are receiving no salary. The players are not allowed to work.

And they’re being denied work not because of some great, noble quest to reduce player’s salaries. Yes, if the owners get what they want, players will earn less, but that is to line the pockets of the owners and to give them more power and more control over the players. By refusing to make concessions on system demands that would severely limit the movement of free agents, even in the face of player concessions on the revenue share, the owners are making a difficult case for themselves. It seems that the owners have spent too much time watching Gordon Gekko movies: they are being driven by greed.

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