You and your fandom are a simple commodity.
Decry it if you want, but it’s true.
While the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association wage one war confined to the rooms of the luxurious Waldorf Astoria, each sides fights another between themselves on another front.
You are that front. I am that front. We are that front.
On Sunday evening, Derek Fisher announced intentions to follow the NFL’s lead in attempting a social media movement by tweeting “LET US PLAY” on Monday and using the hashtag “#StandUnited” in tweets until the lockout ends.
Which accomplishes…what, exactly?
Like socks in a pair of Air Jordan 2010s, the motive was visible to anyone with eyes willing to see it.
On the last day of the lockout negotiations before David Stern and the rest of the NBA would cancel regular season games, Fisher and the NBPA launched their move, using NBA players to draw fans as pawns for their side. Between their hardwood heroes and billionaire businessmen living vicariously through their toy NBA teams, fans will side with the players always and forever, in a vacuum.
But the situation isn’t in a vacuum. The players find themselves clearly disadvantaged without much leverage trying to negotiate their way into a compromise that the owners know they can break in due time.
So in a rash effort to bring the fans on their side and against the owners, Fisher and the NBPA began a last-ditch effort to manipulate their fans.
Fan perception as a powerful motivator against ownership is pretty ineffective, though. In the one successful case I can think of, George Shinn found himself on the wrong side of it in Charlotte as the fans refused to support him, pushing him away from the city. On the flip side, Donald Sterling is considered one of the worst owners (and people) in the league but his team continues to bankroll profits to keep him happy and in business.
Of course, when a lockout goes on for this long, the public gets fed up. In theory, an attempt to sway perception towards the player side could have a slim chance at putting pressure on the owners to make concessions.
The actual execution of the idea to push the PR war to their side completely bombed whatever shot it did have at success, unless success was alienating fans.
“LET US PLAY.” Yes, it’s short, sweet and to the point. And I get that it’s piggybacking off the NFLPA’s lockout slogan. Yet, how funny it is – play! Playing is all NBA players have been doing this summer during the lockout. NFL players can’t play pickup games as easily as NBA players can just go down to the local blacktop and join a quick five-on-five full court game. Oh, they want to play real NBA games. Starting a hashtag movement certainly makes momentous steps towards accomplishing this.
It was just an utterly hair-brained strategy. Did they think they would wrangle all the NBA fans on Twitter in a single day with most players tweeting the same few words, give or take ten exclamation points? Then what? The owners would cave because people on Twitter don’t side with them? Hell, one NBA GM didn’t what Google was; how many owners know Twitter even exists? NBA owners could care less what fans think at a time like this. Fans aren’t businessmen. They may have more common sense, but the economic and business intricacies are far beyond any normal fan’s comprehension. Plus, they know the die-hard fans will be there to buy tickets and merchandise when the lockout ends. Some casual fans may be lost but as long as they get most of the system they want in place, they’re fine with that. Fans, for the most part, are immaterial.
And the NBPA doesn’t think much differently. It’s insulting to fans to see something that’s either so wholly or seemingly contrived used by NBA players to maneuver their mindset to align with the NBPA’s. From Derrick Caracter’s “Let’s play,” to Brian Cardinal’s flip-flopping from “#arewereallyrelyingonhashtagnegotiations” to the form tweet, the whole movement seemed forced. It was like all the players on Twitter had a massive conference call to get them to tweet “LET US PLAY #StandUnited” at some point in the day.
Twitter has truly shown itself to be a media watchdog of sorts and an effective tool of social media for powerful movements, like Egyptian revolution. Not Derek Fisher and the NBPA’s quest for PR superiority. It makes them come off as desperate, rushed and foolish. Really, really foolish. It’s not just the hashtag and slogan, as stupid as they are. Do not miss the forest for the trees here. This is about how fans are viewed and treated by the players association.
But it’s not just the NBPA. The owners are guilty of trying to win a PR war, too. They’re just not doing it as technologically-proficiently. NBA Commissioner David Stern said to reporters after the meeting, “We tried very hard. We made concession after concession.” That posturing is worse than the players’. The NBA is treating the cancellation of games as a weapon to force the NBPA into submission for more money. But hey – at least they tried very hard! One of the main things that I notice is how we were led to believe that the system discussions had been more or less settled and that BRI was the last main hurdle in negotiations heading into Sunday’s meeting. But it wasn’t and it all fell apart. Now the NBA is nixing games to make a power move for getting as much money as they disregard the fans completely but try to posture it as if they were making concessions. We were duped in a PR war trying to get us to take sides. When the games were canceled, it became more than evident.
Former SLAM Editor In Chief Russ Bengtson said on his Twitter account, “[I] will in no way be the NBA fan I used to be after this.” I too, cannot come out of this lockout, whenever it may end, and go back to being the same fan of the game I love. I’m already a pretty cynical fan as it is. To see the owners and now the players toy with fans while progress moves like Eddy Curry post-all-u-can-eat buffet disgusts me.
LET US PLAY.
No, that’s not it.
LET US PLAY YOU.
That’s more like it.