Thanks to fans and foes

 

The National Basketball Association had been scheduled to

begin its 2011-12 season this week, with our Indiana Pacers having their best chance in years

of having a contending team. But the Pacers won't be playing this week due to a

labor dispute that has put the entire season in jeopardy.

With players and management said to be far from agreement on

how to split revenues, NBA Commissioner David Stern (hereafter referred to as

the Grinch Who Stole Basketball) has cancelled all games through at least Nov.

30 and is threatening to wipe more games off the schedule.

I haven't seen conventional media identify one immediate

path beyond this impasse. The legal framework exists to end the lockout

tomorrow and put the players, coaches and arena employees back to work

immediately.

The Taft-Hartley

Act of 1947

, a viciously anti-union law passed by Republican lawmakers over

Harry Truman's veto, gives the president of the United States executive order

authority to end any lockout or strike if the strike imperils the

"national health or safety."

In the 64 years since the law took effect, courts have

interpreted that clause quite broadly, allowing the president almost unchecked

power to end labor disputes. President George W. Bush used it to force locked-out

longshoremen back to work in 2002.

It's not that big of an overstatement to contend that the

lack of professional basketball creates an economic emergency in cities with

NBA teams just when businesses can least afford it. Ask any waiter or bartender

who works near Conseco

Fieldhouse

just how happy a Christmas they plan on having.

Ask any downtown restaurant owner whether they can afford to

lose patrons for 40 nights a year. And, for God's sake, won't someone please

think about the Pacemates, the NBA's first and best dancing team?

Usually, invoking the provisions of the Taft-Hartley bill is

an anti-worker move, forcing them to accept substandard pay and working

conditions while negotiations continue. In this case, the president would be

working to help save jobs, give players and owners time to cool off and give

millions of people entertainment and joy when they could really use it.

The Pacers are more than just a sports team to Indiana. They

are pioneers, pillars of the community and a key factor in the revitalization

and rehabilitation of downtown Indianapolis. They were one of the main reasons

people began coming to downtown again in the 1970s and 1980s. Without them,

would we have been able to steal the Colts from Baltimore? Would there be a Circle

Centre Mall

?

I can handle the bad economy. I can handle the Indianapolis

Colts being the worst team in the NFL. But I can't live in a world without the

Indiana Pacers and the NBA. Without the NBA, we face the prospect of making it

through a cold and snowy winter on our own with nothing to look forward to

except ice storms and nights spent staring at the fireplace for entertainment.

The lockout comes at the worst possible time. For the first

time since 2004 — when Ron Artest charged a man in the bitch-ass Detroit crowd

[his fury was misdirected; the person he attacked had not tossed the

liquid-filled cup that instigated Artest's fury] and started the brawl

that stole Reggie Miller's final hopes for an NBA championship — the Pacers finally have built an

exciting, vibrant team with a legitimate, if

unlikely, chance to win a championship. It

looked as though Conseco Fieldhouse would be full again just about every night with fans.

But due to the Grinch and the team owners, we likely won't

get a chance to see the Pacers play at all this season. Barring some

last-minute compromise, we'll have to do without our beloved Pacers for an

entire year.

The Grinch and the wealthy industrialists he represents are

trying to strike a hard bargain with the players, amounting to hundreds of

millions of dollars over the life of any new contract. Without making any

significant concessions, they're asking the players to agree to a series of

punitive measures that benefit the richest owners and do little to help

small-market teams such as the Pacers.

It's no wonder that the players have thus far told the

Grinch to go to hell. But they're in a weakened position asking for anything

while much of the country suffers through the worst economic crisis since the

1930s.

Other cities will do fine this winter without basketball.

The Knicks can't singlehandedly ruin the economy of New York and Dallas has

plenty of attractions besides the Mavericks. The Pacers, however, are an

integral part of the city's economy. We need the moral and economic boost that

the team gives us, especially now.

President Obama should do the right thing and end the

lockout, order the players back onto the court and allow the labor process to take

place with no time pressure, or risk losing the NBA altogether

for a generation of fans.

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