Labor Controversy: Facing MJ
Would you want to matchup against MJ?
by Nicole Powell / @NKP14
There is a right way and wrong way to do things, well… some things. Like how an omelet needs eggs—or egg whites, or an egg substitute. The recipe calls for some sort of egg. On the other hand, something like the NBA labor dispute and the question of a right compromise is met with two contrasting answers by the owners and players’ union.
Both parties have presented a united front but reports have circulated that each are facing dissenting opinions within their own group. There’s only one man with a role in this lockout spectacle who has experience as a player and majority owner—Michael Jordan. Surely a man with the benefit of having walked in the shoes of both parties can empathize with the dilemma each faces in this ensuing dogfight. He should know what is fair for everyone and be able to define a proper compromise, right?
That doesn’t seem to be the case. A man who on the surface has the credentials for being the perfect mediator is set squarely on the side of owners. In addition to the standard ideological differences between workers and employers who plague this standoff, the majority of owners are Caucasian and the majority of players are African-American. Assessing the best interest for all involved in this dispute would be a perspective that draws upon theories of moral and social welfare. Should Jordan have an obligation to improve the standing of players, most of whom are black, and their stake in NBA revenues? Or is it futile, even wrong, to consider attaching motives to him, let alone anyone, beyond the structure of capitalism that governs our nation’s economy?
We could also view Jordan’s situation through the lens of the American dream, in which a former laborer through hard work and perseverance rises to become the boss. Having worked his way through the system, earned his title and status, he is continuing onward in the “right” track of success, using his wealth to accumulate more wealth. To be fair, MJ carries the same imperious competitiveness into the boardroom that made him the greatest baller on the planet; and is acting in accordance with the ideals of our capitalist society and within context of his ownership position. In fact, the case of his ownership loyalty could be constituted as nothing more than an example of business savvy behavior. Negotiating is an art, and the those who are successful realize that conceding more than is necessary is a poor business model.
To cite this latest labor contest as a struggle between haves and have-nots would be a gross aggrandizement. This is after all a modern, complex labor dispute, not feudalism. Jordan’s posture only serves to highlight the undertones in the debate of the distribution of wealth in this ongoing saga. Indeed it’s difficult not to perceive slight parallels in the timely breakup of both the players’ union and the Occupy Wall Street protests at Zuccotti Park. The demands are not the same—not even close—and the protest is of an entirely different nature, but both groups are set in the role of underdog, fighting for power against the Establishment in their relative spheres.
In the basketball world, Jordan is now a part of the Establishment. Perhaps his actions are speaking to the “right thing” in light of his particular circumstances and given the same opportunity, you, I or Derrick Fisher would stick to a hard line and fight for a majority share at all costs too. “Do whatever it takes to win all you can” nearly sums up the economic model of capitalism. And for someone who has built an entire brand on winning—whose initials have become synonymous with victory—it’s hard to imagine him not getting his way.
Billy Hunter is probably the only person who wishes Jordan made good on his threat of another comeback in his 2009 Hall of Fame acceptance speech. He may have exchanged his uniform for a suit, but the game is still the same. Would you want to matchup against MJ?