Occupy the NBA

“The purpose of Occupy Wall Street is to reclaim the country from corporate interests. The protesters feel as though their political system has been hijacked by Wall Street's corporations, and as a result their elected officials now serve the interests of the wealthy upper-1 percenters instead of what they call the ‘99 percent.’”- Allison Kilkenny, Citizen Radio

After decades of corporate greed run amok, a viral clarion call has sounded to strike back and “occupy everywhere”. What started as several dozen people saying they would "occupy Wall Street" has become a national movement. Now we have thousands of people who are part of Occupy Boston, Occupy DC, Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Las Vegas, even Occupy Nebraska. Now we have labor organizations like the Transit Workers Union and 1199 joining the charge. Now it’s high time to take this movement and bring it to the National Basketball Association. We need to “Occupy the NBA.”

Why not? Do you really want to talk about corporate greed pile-driving the interests of “the other 99%”? Look no further than the NBA. The League’s billionaire owners have locked their doors and threatened to cancel the 2011-2012 season following the most lucrative year in league history. They haven’t only locked out the players union, but thousands of low-wage workers – the people cleaning the arenas, parking the cars, and selling the overpriced flat, foamy swill the League calls beer. They've also locked out secretaries and scouts, managers and mascots. Somewhere in Phoenix there's a guy in a gorilla suit with a sign that reads, "Will dunk for food."

We are familiar with Wall Street’s version of the high pick-and-roll, their go-to play: magically turning our tax dollars into their profits.  Look at the billions that have gone to NBA arenas while public workers are laid off and the infrastructure of our cities rot. As economist David Berri has noted, $2 billion has gone into building eight new facilities. Of that amount, 84%, $1.75 billion, has come out of our pockets. That number also doesn’t include the $2 billion in tax dollars being funneled into the Atlantic Yards Project for the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets.  To David Stern claim that 23 of 30 owners are "losing money" on the NBA, while leaving public subsidies out of his math, only demonstrates his ugly contempt for us 99 percenters.

Is it the arrogance of the privileged class that makes your blood boil? Listen to Ted Leonsis, the owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards. In September, Leonsis said, “Economic Success has somehow become the new boogie man; some in the Democratic party are now casting about for enemies and business leaders and anyone who has achieved success in terms of rank or fiscal success is being cast as a bad guy in a black hat. This is counter to the American Dream and is really turning off so many people that love America and basically carry our country on their back by paying taxes and by employing people.” So we pay for their stadiums, we buy their sweatshop-stitched crap, we work for poverty wages at the park and they’re carrying us on their back? Please kiss me where the good Lord split me.

So what would an “Occupy NBA” look like? The demands are bothobvious enough and placard-ready: "Stop the lockout!" "Public ownership of teams that take public money!" "A living wage for stadium workers!" "Better beer!"

The method should be encampments out in front of every arena. We could gather with food, water, tents, “peoples libraries” filled with the collected works of Zander Hollander, and of course, a bunch of basketballs and a hoop. We would also need to dialogue with players and encourage them to start their own league until David Stern stops using his head as a rectal thermometer. As Henry Abbot wrote on ESPN’s True Hoop blog before being methodically tortured in an undisclosed Bristol, Connecticut safe-house, “So long as taxpayers pay for the stadiums, and players do the work, why, again, do we cut owners in on the deal?”

The players have clearly also had enough of the arrogance and absence of accountability in the owner’s box. Last week, the stars finally came out to the negotiations with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony making themselves heard. When David Stern pointed his finger repeatedly at Wade, the All-Star guard responded, "Don't point your finger at me. I'm a grown man. I have children." Later, Lebron, D-Wade, Durant, and Carmelo all stood at attention, arms crossed, behind a sitting Derek Fisher, the union President, as he resumed negotiations with Stern. Now that’s how to do a union negotiation.

 Watching the NBA players develop a backbone, and seeing the reemergence of fightback against corporate greed, it’s difficult to not think about the words of Troy Polamalu during the NFL’s lockout over the summer. The Steelers safety said:I think what the players are fighting for is something bigger. A lot of people think it’s millionaires versus billionaires and that’s the huge argument. The fact is its people fighting against big business. The big business argument is ‘I got the money and I got the power therefore I can tell you what to do.’ That’s life everywhere. I think this is a time when the football players are standing up and saying, ‘No, no, no, the people have the power.’”

Yes we certainly do. I want my basketball and I know I'm not alone. Let’s Occupy the NBA.

[Dave Zirin is the author of “The John Carlos Story” (Haymarket) and just made the new documentary “Not Just a Game.” Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.]

15 Reader Comments | Add a comment

i think

This wouldn't work. People who buy sports tickets have jobs, so endless protest is not practical.

The occupy wall streeters get their unemployment checks faithfully, so they have the time & luxury of protesting without having to worry about looking for jobs or showing up at their jobs.

Hook by Jowl

LOL Mr. Jowl . . . . but Comrade Zirin is an insincere phony.

On his radio show, Zirin said his father worked in an office in the WTC (to give himself cover to trash the 9/11 memorials), blocks from Wall Street. Finance perhaps? I wonder what part of capitalism Zirin profited from as a kid?

Like most upper-middle-class white "radicals," it's all about the posturing.

Critical Thinking for Dummies

The millions of dollars taken from school budgets to subsidize billionaires have obviously atrophied the ability of the average American sports fan to think critically.

In their words I am reminded of the slaves Frederick Douglas wrote of, imagining their own power somehow reflected in the power of their masters, fighting each other in defense of their own masterís reputation as a powerful man, and, in the end, bloodied and beaten by each other, still a slave, still dis-empowered, but ever worshipful of those who enslaved them.

If you think "time and luxury" is why people protest...

Then you dont understand history. If you guys are gonna come on the site and talk trash, at least bring some logic.

Tornado is in looooove with me

Keep bringing the hate Tornado! I love your obsession with me. Just stay away from my kids.

Is this meant to be satire?

Dave: Is this column for real? Are you actually suggesting that ordinary folk out to give up precious time with family friends or leisure to protest the absence of a lousy sport. The owners have already received their corporate welfare stadiums. The players, who couldn't care less about ordinary working people, let alone the slaves that make their sneakers and uniforms, are also "arrogant members of the privileged class." The NBA is a non-issue.

Children of the Financial Revolution

Comrade Zirin,

I don't hate you, and I would never harm you.

I just am going to discredit you. So, please answer the question: what was your family wealth growing up? What did your father do for a living working in an office in the WTC? Finance? Real estate speculation?

Do tell.

OK then Tornado. . .

Since your "ordering" Dave to answer your question about his family background, would you like to share your own background with the rest of the class? If you're trying to discredit him--you're doing a pretty poor job of it. He zinged you one, and it looks like to me you can't take it.

And while we're at it, here's another question for you to answer: Are you, in fact, in favor of one party rule in the United States? And if so, do you think the the Republican Party is the only party that should be allowed to rule?

Correcting for spelling and grammar. . .

The first sentence should read "Since you're 'ordering; Dave to answer your question. . ." And the second question is addressed to Tornado himself. I hope he'll have the courage to answer it.

NBA Lockout = good for hockey

While I know nothing of the NBA I do know that the 04-05 NHL lockout still hurts the game.

Bad for basketball fans but good for hockey. The longer average fans go without the NBA the more they will turn to other sports. In come hockey which could gain major status if the NBA losses a full season.

Probably not Geoff

I think we already voted on hockey as a major sport.

Occupy the NBA

I like the Allison Kilkenny quote.
I'm a big fan of Citizen Radio and your interview on Citizen Radio was fantastic.

Power to the people!

I would love to see Sacramento occupy the Kings!

The latest proposal for the new arena includes fans paying additional "use fees" for everything from already overpriced parking (no tailgating allowed), tickets, to crappy beer and food. The Maloufs have mismanaged the team on the cheap, shuttered the WNBA Champ Monarchs, squandered their family fortune, and now shop the team to Anaheim...all while owing the city of Sacramento a $30 million stake in the Kings, and demanding a $500 million arena deal by March 2012 for the privilege of sticking around. In the end, the Maloufs will send their share of the money out of the region to service the debt on their dwindling share of the struggling Palms Las Vegas casino.

Sacramento's loyal and enthusiastic small-market fan base deserves better, as do the the citizens of the region, who are among the nation's hardest-hit by the real estate and job crises.

Former NBA star, and Sacramento Mayor, Kevin Johnson is doing everything he can to make the deal happen. What if the locals came up with a bit more cash, and bought the Kings, eliminating the Maloufs and creating badly needed economic stimulus for the region?

Thanks, DZ, for putting the idea of occupying the NBA out there. At least here in Sac, it's an idea whose time has come.

boycott the nba - facebook page


Occupy the NBA

Why would I support NBA players? Aren't they a part of the 1%.

Stop making athletes out to be some poor working class, Zirin.

15 Reader Comments | Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: This forum is for dialog between Edge of Sports readers. Discuss!

Submit your comment below:

Your Name


(Only if we need to contact you—not for advertising purposes)



Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
Become an Edge of Sports Sustainer (Click Here)

Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com