NBPA Chief Taking NBA Owners to Task

How much should you be entitled to make? Your answer might be, “As much as I can.” I wouldn’t fault you for that.

Providing you’re not planning on robbing a bank or committing fraud, I would tell you that if you want to make a lot of money, go right ahead and be the best you can be at whatever it is that you’re good at doing.

Michelle RobertsLet’s fast forward to 10 years from now and you’ve worked your tail off to be the best that you can be; in fact, you’re one of the few people on this earth who’s as good at your job as you are. In fact, you’ve made your company millions! You feel you deserve a raise and you go to the owner of your company. All of a sudden, you are told that no matter how much you make for the company, they will never pay you more.

Fine, you might say, I’ll go to another company that appreciates me more. You go to another company that really wants you, but they tell you that they are not allowed to pay you anymore than the company you left.

You ask why and you learn that there is a “cap” in place. The cap says that once the total salary is reached for everyone in the company, no matter how good you are, you can’t earn a penny more; even if you are a super-star.

Let’s leave your job and go the NBA.

Not long ago, we blogged about – and congratulated – Michele Roberts the new head of the National Basketball Player’s Association. The first woman to assume this post, Roberts is plunging into her job with both feet.

In particular, she wants to know why the owners of this very rich league, are not paying their players more. As she stated to ESPN magazine:

“’Why don’t we have the owners play half the games?’” she said. “’There would be no money if not for the players. Let’s call it what it is. There. Would. Be. No. Money. Thirty more owners can come in, and nothing will change. These guys [the players] go? The game will change. So let’s stop pretending.

I don’t know of any space other than the world of sports where there’s this notion that we will artificially deflate what someone’s able to make, just because,” she said. ‘It’s incredibly un-American. My DNA is offended by it.’”

I can hear the Whoa’s!

There will be some of you reading this who will pound on the table and tell me that basketball players already make a sinful amount of money. What give them the right to make more?

“Sinful?” Is it really?

There will be some of you who will tell me how little money nurses and teachers make; how little firefighters and people in the military make. You know what? I will agree with you on those last points. Teachers and nurses and those in the military and firefighters and those in many other professions don’t get paid enough. They need strong unions or congress people to stand up for them.

However, I dislike comparisons to athletes. It’s unfair.

A professional basketball player is one of a handful of people in the world who can play the game at a very high level. In doing so, the NBA player is not only an incredible athlete, but an entertainer, a spokesperson, a commercial endorser, a good-will ambassador and a “shirt salesman.” You know what I mean.

Each NBA player makes a ton of money for his team and in turn, each team makes a fortune for its owner. Basketball teams are valued in the millions and billions of dollars. Why then, does the idea of a cap even exist?

Look, I am all for a third grade teacher getting paid more, and I want any emergency room nurse who might work on me, or my family or any of my friends to get paid more as well.

At the same time, I am ethically uncomfortable with extremely wealthy owners artificially capping the salaries of the very players who make them wealthy.

I hope Michele Roberts continues on her mission.


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