October 20th, 2011 8:30 pm | by CASEY JARMAN News | Posted In: Sports

Is Paul Allen the Reason the NBA's Labor Talks Broke Down?

The New York Times drops a curious reference to the Blazers' owner.

picture 6Paul "Moneybags" Allen - Portfolio Hardcover
UPDATE: Adrian Wojna—, Adrian Worja—, Adrian Woorjan— ... Ahem. Adrian W. at Yahoo Sports thinks maybe Paul Allen wants more money because Allen wants to sell the Blazers.

There's a real baffling passage in the middle of tonight's depressing New York Times piece on the NBA's labor negotiations—which hit a wall, again, about three hours ago. It reads:

"Silver said he began the day feeling optimistic. Officials from the players’ side also felt that progress was possible when the talks reconvened early Thursday afternoon, after the N.B.A.’s board of governors meeting.

Union officials suggested that something changed during that owners meeting. According to the union, Paul Allen, the Portland Trail Blazers’ owner, was a surprise participants [sic] at the labor talks, and had been sent to deliver the owners’ message — that they would move no further."
Whoah, wait, Paul Allen—the guy whose arena (partially paid for by taxpayers) has been selling out for three straight years; the guy who is still recovering from his latest bout with cancer; the guy whose team is perennially on the brink of being a Western Conference superpower; the guy who is number 57 on the "richest men in the world" list—is hung up on taking another 2.5% of the NBA's income for the owners? Paul Allen is the league's messenger? Paul Allen is the guy we're supposed to feel bad for? Paul Allen would risk losing an entire NBA season over what amounts to a few pennies in his endlessly deep pockets?

Let me back up a second: The players have already negotiated away a healthy piece of their pie (they were reportedly willing to move from 57% to 52.5% of BRI) and the owners—including "good" ones like Allen, who we like to think view pro sports ownership as a labor of love—are saying it's not enough. I know, I know, that's the party line. And I know all these guys are filthy rich, including the vast majority of NBA players, but I'm still a little bit shocked that Allen would volunteer to strong-arm the players' union when his young team—which is not getting any younger—has so much to lose from a season-long lockout.

So what's my solution? I have one, actually. In fact, I have a strategy so un-fuck-withable that only the coldest of cold-hearted Sports Business majors and aspiring slimeball agents could take issue with it. The NBA's players should give up the 2.5% current being bickered over—they're going to lose it sooner or later anyway, because the owners always win—with one stipulation: That the owners donate that 2.5% to the league's NBA Cares initiatives. It's a write-off anyway, right? Under the Casey Jarman plan, everyone gets to be a hero. Not only that, but the league gets to win back some of the respectability that it has spent all summer trying to plunge down the drain. Imagine it! A feel-good end to the NBA lockout! If Derek Fisher got on a microphone right now, and outlined the Casey Jarman plan, everyone in America would be on the players' side. It would work even better if he accompanied his public statement with a chart displaying the net worth of each of the NBA's 30 owners, whom no one should feel sorry for.

That won't happen, of course. No one takes bold humanitarian stands in the world of business, and the NBA is big business. But Paul Allen should think twice before becoming a spokesperson for the league's poor, money-losing owners. It's not a good look. If I were a player, I'd walk out on that meeting, too.

EXTRA: Video (hat tip to Blazersedge) of Player rep Billy Hunter talking about Paul Allen's Darth Vader-esque presence in the latest negotiations.

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