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Dear Steve Nash: Please Save The NBA

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Steve Nash. Image by Keith Allison and used under terms of Creative commons License.
The Phoenix Suns Star Could Do A Lot To Help Spur Owners To Make A Deal

By Bob Goodwood
Special for Modern Times Magazine

Aug. 31, 2011 — As fans across the globe sit waiting, September is rapidly approaching. Since 1998, the ninth month of the year has brought basketball back to the courts of NBA arenas and practice courts.

This year, though, the best players in the world will be locked in a battle against the league and its owners over the billions the NBA generates each and every year. Those who might think everything will work itself out at the last minute like the NFL did earlier this summer might be in for a shock.

The NFL battle was over how much of the profits would be shared. Major losses were not claimed by the NFL. The NBA, though, is claiming that its teams collectively lost $340 million in the 2009-2010 season and $300 million in the 2010-2011 season. To mitigate these losses, the league is proposing a hard salary cap and claiming a larger portion of basketball related income.

To further complicate matters, owners want to keep player salaries at about $2 billion per year for the next six years — even if revenues increase. Players might be willing to agree to a $2 billion cap — roughly the equivalent of salaries paid last season — but only as long as the current downturn continues. They have proposed a 54.3 to 45.7 split in revenues — players would receive the bigger percentage as they now do.

The players, though, have very little leverage to get a deal done. Most of them have worked out their deals individually under the previous collective bargaining agreement. They are also slipping in the court of public opinion. They are seen as rich guys that get paid a lot of money to play a game. Owners have an easier time getting sympathy by saying, “we lost $300 million.”

Boo hoo.

One of the lessons the NBA learned in the 1998 lockout is that players whining about not getting paid tends to backfire. The lead player representative back then, Patrick Ewing, and former player Kenny Anderson were both lambasted at the time for their comments about how tough players had it. This time around, the NBA players association laid out a set of ground rules before the lockout began for all players to follow: no complaining or making it look like they are out-of-touch athletes.

For the most part, that job has been well done. Outside of a few innocuous comments — Dwayne Wade asking if anyone was hiring or Delonte West saying he was applying for a job at Home Depot — there has not been a huge public relations nightmare as of yet.

But what is also not being done is using all of this down time to show the other side of NBA players: philanthropy. Every player has a foundation that gives millions to communities around the country and around the world. Sure, many of them might only do it for the tax write-offs, but a lot of them ‘get it’: they earn a disproportionate amount of cash to play a game. They realize they are lucky and they do something about it.

This is where Steve Nash can help.

He is a burgeoning filmmaker, so let him make films about the players. Specifically, in regards to what they do to help their communities out of the limelight, when no one is looking. The players will trust him because they know he is one of them. He also has the humor and the smarts to do it right — and of course with the approval of he player’s association.

He is also one of the most giving NBA stars the sport has ever seen. In 2001, he created the Steve Nash Foundation and it was given charitable status in 2004. He also founded the Jim Jennings Memorial Endowment Fund — in honor of a volunteer staffer at Santa Clara University. He sponsors the Steve Nash Youth Basketball League in British Columbia, and is involved with GuluWalk, a Canadian-operated charitable organization that raises awareness and funds for the war-affected children of northern Uganda.

The list can go on, but the point has been made: the guy does a lot of good with his money.

So let Nash make some movies and tell the stories of the players. It can’t hurt, and maybe it might give both sides some pause to get a deal done.

Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.
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