David Stern Wants to Regulate and Restrict the Whereabouts of NBA Players

By David Wilson

Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News reports that in the wake of the Darrent Williams murder and other assorted shooting incidents involving pro athletes the NBA security forces for each team are putting together a list of clubs and other night spots that will become off-limits to NBA players. Once the list is circulated, should a player enter one of the prohibited establishments they will face a substantial fine.

However, when I followed this thread of information to other sources, I found an illuminating blog post by Michael McCann on the Sports Law Blog. Here’s McCann’s take on the subject:

Setting aside, for a moment, the dubious merits of this policy, it does not appear to enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining. The closest textual support it may obtain from the NBA-NPA collective bargaining agreement derives from Article VI, Section 11, which delineates “league investigations” into player behavior:

Players are required to cooperate with investigations of alleged player misconduct conducted by the NBA. Failure to so cooperate, in the absence of a reasonable apprehension of criminal prosecution, will subject the player to reasonable fines and/or suspensions imposed by the NBA.

I suppose the NBA could characterize the policy as reflecting a broader and extended league investigation into player behavior, and that such an investigation has been contemplated by the respective parties to the CBA. There are several other sections from Article VI that might also lend the NBA textual support, but none appear sufficiently relevant. And without collectively-bargained support, it, like any non-collectively-bargained working condition, would be subject to antitrust review–and as Joe Rosen and I detail in our Case Western Reserve Law Review article, antitrust law is not especially tolerant of unilaterally-imposed league prohibitions on working conditions, particularly given the existence of the labor exemption, which is premised on the belief that employees are better off negotiating together than individually, particularly when negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions.

Damn good stuff from Mr. McCann, whose Case Western Reserve Law Review article was, a couple of months ago, the subject of a long and spirited debate among NBA and general sports bloggers.

Like McCann says, if this is the new way for the NBA, then why not start legislating alcohol intake or prohibit players from eating fatty foods, or make some of the players home neighborhoods off-limits if they grew up in a “high crime” area?

I tried to peer into David Stern’s soul as I blasted his Age-Limit Rule and exposed his reasons for the introduction of the microfiber ball, but restricting the movement of employees, most of whom are over the age of 21, is beyond over the top for the man I once called “Herr Stern.”

It appears more and more that Stern’s efforts to inject players from around the world – mostly from Europe – into the NBA product was much more than an effort to globalize the game. There seems to have been a premeditated effort to whiten the game with these imports to make the game more palatable to the largely white attendees of NBA games. Though Stern rubs elbows with darkness each day, each night he sees his arenas. He knows those who fill those arenas are the same people who make the quarterly stockholder meetings of his corporate sponsors a joy to attend. And he knows those who pay for the tickets and those who sit at the stockholder meetings look just like him.

The media Stern once implored to embrace and spread the gospel of the hip-hop culture-element of his game has now turned on his product. Mostly white beat writers and league reporters despise of the mostly black athletes they cover; those that they perceive only as pampered and arrogant, and with more of a sense of entitlement than their skin color should warrant. The backlash from the media mainstream and the Internet has been as swift as it has been thorough. Its purpose is to subjugate the expressions of those with divergent worldviews in an effort to maintain its primacy – to ensure that only one voice reaches Sterns ears.

For now, for the most part, the voice is directed at the recalcitrant employees of the NBA, those depicted as wild thugs who would just as soon wear red or blue and claim them as gang jerseys and play a street game where calls of foul are met with gunshots and blood splatter – another joins the freshly-stained concrete to fill the empty space.

Stern hears the voice and its depictions of his creation. He fears it may one day be directed his way. So he sides with the voice and runs from the darkness to keep the force of the entity he created at bay.

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