One of the most interesting ethical issues in professional sports today is the NBA lockout and its recent resolution. The lockout has been going on for over 100 days and is going to cost the league 16 games of the season. The lengthy lockout was due to an attempt by the owners to fundamentally change the way in which player salaries, player movement, and revenue sharing worked out. The exact terms of the settlement are still unclear and are exceptionally complicated. This article from ESPN.com and this one from SI.com detail the new collective bargaining agreement as well as the current information allows. The final settlement is important but not the real issue from an ethical standpoint. Regardless of how everything shakes out and which side actually “won” the lockout, many stakeholders who had no role in the negotiations were hurt by the work stoppage.
The first group of stakeholders that were harmed by the lockout are the many people who rely on the NBA season for employment. The players of course are included in this group but the vast majority of people employed by the NBA and its franchises were not involved in the negotiations and were also less able to deal with a few months with no income. Employees such as stadium security or concession workers as well as the people on the financial and marketing side of each teams front office were left out in the cold by the NBA. NBA owners made the decision to lock out the players until they were offered a more favorable collective bargaining agreement. This was the best decision from a profit-maximization standpoint but it certainly had unintended negative consequences for may of their employees.
Another group of stakeholders harmed by the lockout is the fans of the NBA. They, like the non-player employees, were given no voice in the negotiations, but were negatively effected. The fact that there are 16 fewer games lowers the value of this season, but more importantly as SI.com’s Zach Lowe details in his column, the condensed schedule will lower the overall quality of play. The NBA does not exist without its fans so the welfare of these stakeholders needs to be a high priority for both the players and the owners when considering work stoppages. In this case the fans seem to have been neglected. The season was not cancelled so the NBA avoided a catastrophic loss of fan interest and support but both sides, and the owners especially went on record as being willing to sacrifice the season to achieve their goals. This shows a disregard for perhaps the most important stakeholder in the success of the NBA.