By Josh Robbins
12:26 PM PDT, November 3, 2011
I detest the gag order that the NBA has imposed on its employees and on its teams, preventing them from making any comments about the league’s ongoing labor dispute.
I believe in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which, among other things, prohibits Congress from making a law “abridging the freedom of speech.”
But the NBA is not Congress, and I must admit that the gag order imposed by David Stern and the league’s Board of Governors is smart business.
Through a public-records request submitted to the city of Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel has obtained a copy of Stern’s June 30 letter to teams and the memo that explains the gag order. A full copy of the letter and the memo has been included at the end of this blog post.
Stern wrote: “It is critical to the success of our negotiations that the NBA speak with one voice on all matters pertaining to collective bargaining.”
People should realize that the negotiations between the league and the National Basketball Players Association are every bit as competitive as a Game 7 of an NBA Finals. The negotiations are a struggle between two sides that, understandably, are fighting for their own best interests.
This is the cold, harsh reality Miami Heat Owner Micky Arison entered into Twitter" rel="nofollow" href="http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/miami-heat/sfl-miami-heat-micky-arison-lockout-s102811,0,2772119.story" target="_blank">when he posted a message on Twitter on Friday night.
Someone, ostensibly an NBA fan, sent Arison a message that read: “Guess what? Fans provide all the money you’re fighting over you greedy [expletive] pigs.”
Arison replied: “Honestly u r barking at the wrong owner.”
Those few words proved, for all the world to see, that NBA owners are not completely unified.
Arison’s message had to provide comfort to the players.
If you were a decision-maker for the union, wouldn’t you now be more hesitant to accept the league’s current offer now that you now know, for sure, that at least some owners want the dispute to end sooner rather than later?
And if you’re a player, maybe you’re more inclined to hold out now for that 52.5 percent share of basketball-related income instead of the 50.0 percent share the owners are offering.
This is why Stern had to treat Arison so harshly.
Stern fined Arison $500,000.
The gag order and the fine are measures that could prevent additional leaks in the future.
If anything, the league didn’t fine Arison heavily enough.
UPDATE AT 3:21 p.m.: Several readers have asked me how city of Orlando officials acquired a copy of the gag order that was issued by the NBA. When I posed that question to a city spokeswoman, she forwarded to me a statement from Michael Thompson, the division manager for Amway Center. Thompson said: “It came to me in hard copy as a point of reference to the impending possible lock out. I do not know who received the original, what else might have been included in the original, nor who sent it.”
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