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
The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947
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
Fieldhousejust 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
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
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.