NBA

No rest for the weary: The NBA becomes an illogical idiom

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Sometimes NBA teams want to rest their players. The NBA does not like it.

Following high-profile instances of an NBA team resting it star player(s), NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to the league’s board of governors. The memo describes the ways in which this practice of resting players is bad for the league:

Decisions of this kind … can affect fans and business partners, impact our reputation and damage the perception of our game. With so much at stake, it is simply not acceptable for governors to be uninvolved or to defer decision-making authority on these matters to others in their organizations.

In other words, the decision to rest players is bad for business and unfair to fans. Furthermore, the players don’t need the time off. Resting players in the absence of injury merely contributes to the perception that the quality of the NBA product has wavered and lends credence to the notion that current players do not measure up to players of the past.

While most, Adam Silver included, seemingly do not dispute the right of teams to rest players when deemed necessary, it is the timing of the rest which becomes problematic.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers sit LeBron James during a Sunday night game or when both the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs rest their star players for a Saturday night game broadcast on national television, it’s a problem. Ratings for the game are bound to be lower than expected, resulting in decreased advertising revenue. Fans are robbed of perhaps their sole opportunity to see Steph Curry play in person.

 

A few different solutions have been offered to this issue. Build more off-days into the NBA schedule. Make healthy, resting players go through every other aspect of NBA game day. Give refunds to fans and business partners if players are rested. Cut minutes-per-game instead of sitting the player for a full game. Or, if you’re going to sit a player, sit them at home.

In essence, the argument is to take the game out of the hands of those actually controlling the outcome, the coaches and players.

But there is no need for these “solutions” because the underlying arguments are illogical. They make no sense.

First, NBA players do not miss more games now than in the past. According to data from Man-Games Lost, the total number of games missed has been relatively steady over the past decade. NBA players are healthier than ever and better than ever.

Second, the NBA needs healthy players. Increased availability and access to biometric data mean teams now have a better understanding of what players need rest and when. Rest comes prior to injury, not following. And numerous medical studies show that cutting activity is not the same as taking a day off. Physiologically, a days rest is healthy and sometimes necessary.

Third, it may be unfair to fans if they are forced to miss LeBron James or Steph Curry. But nobody is making them go to games. They get no guarantee. What if James plays and is hurt in the first minute of the game, missing the remaining 47 minutes? Is that really different? Plus, on Seat Geek you can get a ticket for Warriors vs. Cavs on March 29th for $74. Not a pittance, but reasonable.

Finally, the NBA is understandably concerned with the business side of this practice. Resting stars means lower television ratings. Lower television ratings means fewer advertising dollars. Fewer advertising dollars means less money for the network to purchase NBA rights. Which means less money for the NBA. Except teams have been resting players for yearsratings are up, and the league just signed a record TV deal a year ago.

The NBA can worry about its business partners, the fans, and perception of the league, but these troubles ring hollow. The league is healthier than it has ever been because the product is as good as it has ever been. The “solution” to this rest problem is apparently to change the product?

Coaches and players want to win. Fans want them to win. Winning creates revenue. Rest helps them win.

“Problem” solved.

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NBA coaches React to the Election of Donald Trump

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The NBA is socially progressive. Commissioner Adam Silver is not particularly concerned with marijuana use among players. He has called for the legalization of sports betting. The NBA made the decision to pull the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, NC due to North Carolina’s controversial HB2 law which discriminates against LGBTQ individuals. In making this decision the NBA stated that their decision was “guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view”. In the wake of the recent presidential election Adam Silver sent a memo to NBA offices worldwide “to reiterate to NBA employees that the league’s core values and commitment to equality and diversity haven’t changed”. And Silver has publicly stressed that he encourages players talking openly about and taking stands on social issues in a respectful manner, that NBA players have the opportunity to make a difference in society.

Many NBA players have taken advantage of this message of social responsibility. NBA players wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts before games in order to protest the treatment of blacks by law enforcement. Following the death of his cousin resulting from gun violence in Chicago, Dwyane Wade made numerous statements and gave interviews to major news outlets condemning the rampant violence in the city and declaring something had to be done. Jabari Parker authored an article in The Player’s Tribune speaking about his experiences growing up in Chicago and having to deal with the gun violence which encapsulated his neighborhood. Numerous teams and individual players have taken steps towards bringing awareness to issues of social justice and social inequality. Meeting with politicians and city leadersDonating their time and money. Making public appearances and public statements in attempts to use their platform in order to make a difference in society.

This extends to NBA coaches. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has given multiple statements related to societal issues. Multiple coaches came out in support of the NFL national anthem protests and have declared that they support peaceful protests, further urging those who protest to put action behind it. They spoke out against Donald Trump and his characterization of sexism and misogyny as “locker room talk”. They had also declared Trump’s rhetoric to be both racist and homophobic. And now that Donald Trump has been elected the future president of the United States, an outcome many within the NBA did not support, head coaches are once again speaking out.

Detroit Pistons head coach and president of basketball operations let his feelings regarding Donald Trump’s election be known in a five-plus minute diatribe to reporters. In this statement Van Gundy eviscerated Donald Trump and his supporters, declaring that,

“We just elected an openly, brazen misogynist leader and we should keep our mouths shut and realize that we need to be learning maybe from the rest of the world, because we don’t got anything to teach anybody.

“It’s embarrassing. I have been ashamed of a lot of things that have happened in this country, but I can’t say I’ve ever been ashamed of our country until today. Until today. We all have to find our way to move forward, but that was — and I’m not even trying to make a political statement. To me, that’s beyond politics.”

Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, was similarly outraged by the election of Trump. Kerr stated that,

“It’s tough when you want there to be some respect and dignity and there hasn’t been any. And then you walk into a room with your daughter and your wife, who’ve basically been insulted by (Trump’s) comments, and they’re distraught. And you walk in and you see the faces of your players, most of them who have been insulted directly as minorities, it’s sort of shocking. It really is. We talked about it as a team this morning. I don’t know what else to say. Just the whole process has left all of us feeling kind of disgusted and disappointed. I thought we were better than this. I thought The Jerry Springer Show was The Jerry Springer Show … This is a presidential election. It’s not The Jerry Springer Show. I’m sorry. This is my rant. I’m disappointed in the lack of respect and dignity that’s involved, and that’s the way it goes.”

Finally, Gregg Popovich was asked his opinion of Donald Trump’s victory. Donald Trump is a subject which Popovich has previously broached, and not in a complimentary manner. But Popovich is known to be both thoughtful and straight-forward in his comments on social and political issues. He does not make a statement without a measured and reasoned opinion. So what did he have to say about the presidential election?

“Right now I’m just trying to formulate thoughts. It’s too early. I’m just sick to my stomach. Not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenor and tone and all of the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic.

“I live in that country where half of the people ignored all of that to elect someone. That’s the scariest part of the whole thing to me. It’s got nothing to do with the environment and Obamacare, and all of the other stuff. We live in a country that ignored all of those values that we would hold our kids accountable for. They’d be grounded for years if they acted and said the things that have been said in that campaign by Donald Trump.”

Two things are particularly noteworthy about these statements. First, it would appear these coaches have been emboldened by the NBA to make such statements. In fact, Rick Carlisle, the president of the NBA Coaches’ Association, commented on these statements by saying,

“NBA coaches are passionate about our country, league and players being represented in the right way and by leaders who value diversity, equality and women. We should not tolerate xenophobic, homophobic, racist and misogynistic talk from a person recently elected president. And I am proud that my colleagues are speaking up.”

Second, it is head coaches making these statements. As pointed out by Gregg Popovich, white, rich head coaches. While many NBA players have made their feelings about the outcome of the presidential election known, and they are similar to the statements above, they almost carry less weight. These head coaches have more in common with Donald Trump than they do with their players in some cases, yet they still speak out. It’s not simply because they must interact with socially progressive players on a daily basis. Coaches in other professional sports leagues have not made similar statements. NBA head coaches are speaking out because they feel it is necessary, and because they can.

That makes their statements that much more powerful.

Gregg Popovich didn’t like the VP debate

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Gregg Popovich spoke to the media today. He was asked about the vice presidential debate. He did not like the vice presidential debate.

Colin Kaepernick, Day 32: Gregg Popovich gets it

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An increasing number of people in the NFLin college and in high schoolplayers and others, are following the lead of Colin Kaepernick and not standing for the national anthem. Kaepernick’s actions and rhetoric have spread throughout the NFL and to other sports as well, including women’s soccer and women’s basketball. The NBA has realized the seriousness of these protests and is proactively working with teams, coaches and players as how to proceed, especially as the NBA does have which prohibits not standing during the national anthem. Coaches in both the NFL and NBA have voiced their support for Colin Kaepernick and the position he has taken.

And now Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, the man who famously gives one-word answers and who is generally fairly prickly towards the media, has succinctly and eloquently elucidated why he supports Kaepernick and those who choose to protest and the problem of race in America.

In an interview during Spurs Media Day with the San Antonio Express-News, Popovich said,

“…I think race is the elephant in the room in our country. The social situation that we’ve all experienced is absolutely disgusting in a lot of ways. What’s really interesting is the people that jump right away to say, one is attacking the police, or the people that jump on the other side. It’s a question where understanding and empathy has to trump, no pun intended, has to trump any quick reactions of an ideological or demagogical nature. It’s a topic that can’t just be swung at, people have to be very accurate and direct in what they say and do.”

Do you support that athletes that are taking stands?

“I absolutely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and I respect their courage for what they’ve done. The question is whether it will do any good or not because it seems that change really seems to happen through political pressure, no matter how you look at it. Whether it’s Dr. [Martin Luther] King getting large groups together and boycotting buses, or what’s happened in Carolina with the NBA and other organizations pulling events to make it known what’s going on. But I think the important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is to keep it in the conversation. When’s the last time you heard the name Michael Brown? With our 24/7 news, things seem to drift. We’re all trying to just exist and survive.

“It’s easier for white people because we haven’t lived that experience. It’s difficult for many white people to understand the day-to-day feeling that many black people have to deal with.  It’s not just a rogue policeman, or a policeman exerting too much force or power, when we know that most of the police are just trying to do their job, which is very difficult. I’d be scared to death if I was a policeman and I stopped a car. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. And part of that in our country is exacerbated by the preponderance of guns that other countries don’t have to deal with. It gets very complicated.

“At this point, when somebody like Kaepernick brings attention to this, and others who have, it makes people have to face the issue because it’s too easy to let it go because it’s not their daily experience. If it’s not your daily experience, you don’t understand it. I didn’t talk to my kids about how to act in front of a policeman when you get stopped. I didn’t have to do that. All of my black friends have done that. There’s something that’s wrong about that, and we all know that. What’s the solution? Nobody has figured it out. But for sure, the conversation has to stay fresh, it has to stay continuous, it has to be persistent, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that happens in our communities.”

If your players protest, do you plan on talking to them about it?

“My players are engaged citizens who are fully capable of understanding what their values are, and what they think is appropriate and inappropriate, and what they feel strongly about. Whatever actions may or may not be taken are their decisions, and I’m not going to tell anyone ahead of time that if they don’t do A, B and C, they’re going to be gone or traded. I think that’s ignorant.”

Do you agree or disagree with that method of protest?

“I think to each his own. I think it depends on a person’s life experience, and what they value, and how strongly they feel about it. I don’t think a condemnation of any sort of act should happen until it’s thought out. For instance, with Kaepernick, a pretty good group of people immediately thought he was disrespecting the military. It had nothing to do with his protest. In fact, he was able to do what he did because of what the military does for us. Most thinking people understand that, but there’s always going to be an element that wants to jump on a bandwagon, and that’s what’s unfortunate about our country. It’s gotten to a point where the civility and the level of discourse is basically in the gutter.

“I saw a wonderful clip on the news the other day, a split screen of Al Gore and George Bush, and they were debating. President Bush was saying something, and the split screen showed Al Gore sigh and shake his head. The commentator at the time said, ‘That’s rude, that rudeness isn’t going to fly.’ Compare that to now. It’s scary, it’s scary. It makes you think a little bit about who you’re supporting.”

What is perhaps most encouraging about these comments from Popovich as well as those from Chip Kelly and Steve Kerr is that they simultaneously defend Kaepernick and others’ protest against social injustice and racial inequality while acknowledging their inability to fully comprehend the situation due to their skin color and upbringing. Just because you don’t see or haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This would seem a relatively simply and obvious point but one which is so commonly missed and misconstrued in this debate about race in America.

To view all of Popovich’s interview check out the videos below.

Don’t be shocked by Derrick Rose

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The available details regarding the pending civil sexual assault case against him do not paint Derrick Rose in a flattering light. With the trial currently set to open October 4th barring settlement more unfavorable information will assuredly come forth.

Today comes a story that Derrick Rose said he doesn’t understand what “consent” means. In a deposition on June 17th lawyers asked Rose about consent. One of Jane Doe’s (the plaintiff does not want to be named) lawyers read aloud that previously unknown section of Rose’s sworn deposition during a press conference call. This is the segment that was read aloud to reporters on the call:

Question: Do you have an understanding as to the word consent?

Derrick Rose: No. But can you tell me?

Question: I just wanted to know if you had an understanding,

Derrick Rose: No.

In response to an request from Think Progress for comment yesterday, Rose’s attorneys “did not deny that during his deposition, Rose did not not know the definition of consent”, but are confident that evidence will be presented demonstrating that the plaintiff’s consent was clear.

The known evidence against Rose sounds bad, but it’s impossible to know his guilt without a trial. Even then, the case to be heard is a civil lawsuit, meaning the burden of proof is not nearly as stringent as in a criminal trial. The burden is “the preponderance of evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Furthermore, the case is to be decided by a judge, not a jury. Therefore, even if Rose is found guilty and ordered to pay the plaintiff or if the case is settled prior to the trial, Rose’s actual guilt will not necessarily be beyond doubt.

However, it is not doubtful that Derrick Rose does not know the meaning of the word “consent”. That’s not a knock against him in this particular case. Rather it’s an acknowledgement that Derrick Rose is off, and kind of stupid. Evidence below:

  • Rose had someone else take the SATs for him.
  • On sitting out games: “I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball…having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to. I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my (2-year-old) son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past.”
  • After missing almost 2 full seasons due to injury and being objectively bad once he returned: “There’s a lot of people that don’t know I’m great, but it’s cool. I know I can hoop.”
  • On his impending free agency, in 2 years: “As far as the money they’re passing out in this league — just telling the truth — and knowing my day will be coming up soon. It’s not for me. It’s for P.J. (his son) and his future. So that’s what I’m thinking about right now.”
  • When he had been cleared to return from ACL surgery but refused to play: “It could be tomorrow (when) I feel like I can play the next game. Nobody knows but God.”
  • And this piece of a deposition on why he and his friends went to the plaintiff’s apartment on the night of the alleged assault:

In other words, Rose probably doesn’t understand the meaning of “consent”. He literally doesn’t understand what it means.

There is no there, there: Political peacocking abounds

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The NCAA announced on Monday that it will move seven championship events from the the state of North Carolina this academic year as the result of the state’s controversial HB2 bathroom law. The events pulled include the first and second round of the 2017 NCAAAA men’s basketball tournament, the Division I women’s soccer championship College Cup, the Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships, the Division I women’s golf championship regional, the Division III men’s and women’s tennis championship,  the Division I women’s lacrosse championship in Cary and the Division II baseball championship. Future sites for these events are yet to be determined.

The NCAA’s Board of Governors released a statement saying, “Current North Carolina state laws make it challenging to guarantee the host communities can help deliver on that commitment if NCAA events remained in the state”. Furthermore, the NCAA said the deciding factors in their decision to move the events were that the North Carolina law “invalidated any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.”

This decision by the NCAA follows similar actions by the NBA and many musical acts which have withdrawn events scheduled for the state as a result of the law which has been described as “discriminatory, troubling and embarassing”.

In response to the NCAA’s statement North Carolina Republican Party spokeswoman Kami Mueller stated,

“This is so absurd it’s almost comical. I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA’s logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers and hotel rooms. This decision is an assault to female athletes across the nation. If you are unwilling to have women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women’s team?

“I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor,” Mueller continued. “Perhaps the NCAA should stop with their political peacocking — and instead focus their energies on making sure our nation’s collegiate athletes are safe, both on and off the field.”

These sentiments follow similar, though less fiery, rhetoric used by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory after the NBA’s move to withdraw their All-Star game and festivities from Charlotte. McCory’s statement was as follows,

“The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present.

“Twenty-one other states have joined North Carolina to challenge the federal overreach by the Obama administration mandating their bathroom policies in all businesses and schools instead of allowing accommodations for unique circumstances. Left-wing special interest groups have no moral authority to try and intimidate the large majority of American parents who agree in common-sense bathroom and shower privacy for our children. American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”

Taking these statements by their words they are misguided, factually incorrect and insulting. First, the letter of the North Carolina law has nothing to do with female athletes. Second, it has nothing to do with the sexual assaults at Baylor University which were perpetrated by male football players and covered up by coaches and the university administration. Third, you can’t argue that the law has been misrepresented resulting in the withdrawal of these events and then argue in favor of those positions which caused the withdrawals. Fourth, the twenty-one other states and the state of North Carolina do not constitute a majority, much less a “large majority”. In fact, two separate polls found the law barely has majority support in North Carolina and a majority percent believe the has not made the state any safer and has had a negative impact on the state. This means it’s not just the “left-wing special interest groups” and “sports and entertainment elite” who are engaging in “political peacocking” and pushing against this law.

Finally, these arguments aren’t new. The same arguments were pushed by those who didn’t, or still don’t, believe homosexuals and minorities should share the same spaces as others. Or giving a “slippery slope” argument as to how this one decision will lead to inexorably worse things down the road. However, there are a few problems with these arguments. First, allowing individuals to use bathrooms according to their chosen gender identity does not result in more sexual assaults on women. Second, even if the law is not repealed it does not prevent men from entering women’s bathrooms and assaulting women. Third, the current law increases the probability of assaults on transgender individuals. It also has a negative effect on their education and employment and has the overall effect of making these individuals feel less safe. In short, the law is benefiting nobody and perpetuating prejudices.

And again, it’s hurting the state. If more citizens of the state in which the law passed disagree than agree with it yet the elected representatives of those citizens continue issuing strongly-worded statements in favor of the law and denouncing all efforts which disagree with their point of view, who’s doing the peacocking? Which could be why nearly every major poll has North Carolina Governor Pat McCory losing his upcoming election.

The NBA Janus coin

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What has been rumored for months looks to be nearing official. The NBA will move their 2017 All-Star festivities and game to New Orleans from previously-scheduled Charlotte. The move is in response to North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law which was enacted earlier this year. Adam Silver’s statement regarding the law indicated that the NBA would move the All-Star game from Charlotte because the law did not conform to the values of the NBA. The league hopes to reschedule the All-Star game in Charlotte for 2019.

What if the law is still in place in 2019? What is the duty the NBA has to its franchise? The team will lose the money generated from the game. The team also loses the prestige of hosting the All-Star game.

This has become a commonplace move by professional sports leagues. The NFL was prepared to take Super Bowl XLIX away from Arizona if that state’s anti-LGBTQ law was passed. Indiana’s anti-LGBTQ law was modified following pressure from NASCAR, the NCAA and the NBA. A religious freedom bill in Georgia was vetoed after criticism by the NBA and NFL.

It may never be known the exact role these leagues had in determining the outcome of these pieces of legislation but their influence is undeniable. These league wield powerful coercive tools. Charlotte is expected to lose $100 million as the result of the NBA moving the All-Star game. If other leagues follow the same course the economic consequences for North Carolina could become dire. Politicians may also face negative consequences.

But again, the problem becomes that the teams are hurt in the process. While past efforts to pressure states have been successful there is no guarantee of future success. Legislators have a right to pass legislation they feel is in the best interests of their state. And if these legislators represent the citizens of that state, who is the NFL or NBA to impose their values?

The North Carolina law and laws of similar ilk are discriminatory. They are wrong. However, the NFL, NBA or other professional sports leagues are not legislative bodies who speak for the people of North Carolina, Georgia or any other state. They do have a responsibility to their franchises and to not take actions which cause harm to those franchises.