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Steinberg: NBA is back, but several mistakes were made

Steinberg Says

November 30, 2011|By Leigh Steinberg

The NBA and its players finally reached accord on a new collective bargaining agreement last week. The season is scheduled to begin on Christmas Day.

The cost has been massive to owners, players and employees at the venues. Lost television revenue is enormous. Little of the lost revenue can be replaced. The deal was aimed at teams like Miami and the Lakers – it will be impossible to keep a roster filled with highly paid stars because of the luxury tax.

This is an example of a failed negotiating process. How did rational businessmen and players with short playing careers allow the process to go so wrong?

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Whenever anyone tells me in reference to a conflict-filled negotiation process that "things can't get any worse," my instant response is, "Oh, YES THEY CAN!"

When strong-willed men, convinced that their position is imminently reasonable, begin to feel that the other party is in bad faith, and compromise that will lead to disaster. Unintended consequences occur.

I wrote "Winning With Integrity" to suggest how deadlocks can be avoided in negotiations and produce a win/win result. Deadlock between parties can lead to divorce, war or the loss of an NBA season.

The longer an impasse continues, the more entrenched and intransigent people can become. Having let the process drag too long, parties are more inclined to see an apocalyptic future and are locked into the absolute necessity to maintain their future.

How did the negotiations for a new CBA get so destructive between the NBA Players Assn. and NBA management?

1. They lost perspective that they are in the entertainment business in an ailing economy. The real battle for the NBA should not be labor versus management, rather the competition with the NFL, NHL, HBO, Disneyland and every other form of discretionary entertainment spending. The priority is building the brand of the NBA and stimulating revenue flow from attendance, television, sponsorship and merchandising and other creative ancillary revenue opportunities. The cardinal rule for any professional sport is: don't alienate the fans. As P.T. Barnum proudly proclaimed "The Show Must Go On." The specter of millionaires bickering with billionaires leads most fans to say "a pox on both their houses."

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