Sunday, November 20, 2011

Michael Jordan: Turncoat

I must admit, right at the start, that I've long had problems with Michael Jordan. I abhor the near-deification of sports figures in America to begin with; I've seen the hypocrisy of fame and mass adulation while the players are active in their particular sport, and watched the dismissal and degradation of retired athletes after they've left the spotlight. I've long had a problem with Michael Jordan in particular, ever since his athletic shoes became an item of desire so intense that kids were killed for their sneakers. To my knowledge, Jordan never once went on TV and said something like, "I know my shoes are cool, but killing for them isn't." So I go into this with an axe to grind, and I freely admit it.

The current NBA lockout caught my attention recently. To me, it really looks like yet another form of the 99% (the players) against the 1% (the owners)...well, except that everyone on both sides is a millionaire! Still, I'm always going to side with labor over management, having been both. These day, though, Mike's no longer a player (finally!); he's currently the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, the first former NBA player to become a team owner. So, given the state of negotiations between players and management this year, Jordan, as a former star player himself, should be four-square for the players, right?

Uhhhh, no:

A group of players is planning a drive to dissolve the union if it accepts any deal that reduces the players’ share of revenue below 52.5 percent.

The league is facing an equal threat from a group of 10 to 14 owners — led by Charlotte’s Michael Jordan — who are determined to cap the players at 50 percent, according to a person who has spoken with the owners. The hardliners are expected to reiterate that stance when all 29 owners meet Saturday morning in Manhattan, about six hours before the bargaining session.


Jordan’s emergence as a leader of the hard-line owners is curious. Although his stance was no mystery — he was fined $100,000 this summer for speaking publicly about the need to reduce costs — he had largely stayed in the background until now.

As a historical matter, during the last labor crisis, in 1998, Jordan famously challenged Abe Pollin, the Washington Wizards owner at the time, reportedly bellowing, “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.”

At the time, Jordan was a superstar who had made $33 million — the most in league history — in his final season with the Chicago Bulls. Now he is a cost-cutting owner in one of the league’s toughest markets. Today’s stars may soon be challenging him in a similar manner.

Strange, but true. Next, weights in:
Last night the NBA players union decertified after months of not really making any major progress in negotiating with owners. This gambit, while pretty serious, is just the latest step in what has become another horrifying example of how the 1% work while the 99% chew on their tails.


ESPN plays mouthpiece to whatever the NBA owners and commissioner David Stern want.  But, shockingly, it is the usually firebomb throwing, race baiting Jason Whitlock over at Fox Sports that actually has a fair look at what the players are doing. He’s showing why this situation deserves a lot more respect and objective analysis than the media is giving For example: why is nobody looking like Michael Jordan?

Michael Jordan is famous for winning a lot of championships, making a lot of money and being so a-political to the degree that he never stood up for anything of significance.


As the most famous player in basketball history turned less-than-impressive owner of (first) the Washington Wizards and now the Charlotte Bobcats, it’s amazing how little attention has been given to his massive flip-flop on labor issues.

It’s one thing for the press to bow to their corporate masters at ESPN and slam the union as a bunch of foolish emotional players – but it’s something else to ignore the incredibly juicy story of one of the game’s greatest players now getting  slammed by the likes of Ron Artest and Stephon Marbury for selling out and being one of the most hardline owners in these negotiations.

Jordan the player was one of the strongest advocates of player rights when he was in the league, and his agent David Falk was a key part of the 1998 negotiations. At one point “his air-ness” famously told the former owner of the Washington Wizards Abe Polin: “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.”  Now that same Jordan has told several players to their faces: “I’m not wearing Jordans anymore.” Ouch. So: you still wanna be like Mike?

Yikes! Mike, what the hell, man? Have you forgotten what the player side was like so quickly? Apparently, so. Then last and fittingly, this, from - believe it or not - the aforementioned Jason Whitlock at Fox Sports:
Michael Jeffrey Jordan finally found a cause he can get behind off the court: being an obstacle for any black kid dreaming of matching or exceeding Jordan’s wealth.


And I don’t throw that word around liberally. But there’s no better description for Jordan now that he has reportedly decided to be the hard-line frontman for NBA ownership’s desire to rob NBA players of their fair share of the revenue the league generates.


Now that NBA superstars have decided to fully engage in the lockout negotiations and threaten union decertification, David Stern and ownership have decided to unleash their token minority owner from the house to play hardball. According to The New York Times, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the greatest player of all time, is the owner most determined to bury the union financially. Jordan allegedly wants current players to take a 10- to 20-point basketball-related-income pay cut.


This is the ultimate betrayal. A league filled mostly with African-American young men who grew up wanting to be like Mike is finally getting to see just who Michael Jordan is. He’s a cheap, stingy, mean-spirited, cut-throat, greedy, uncaring, disloyal slave to his own bottom line.

Nike’s “Air Jordan” marketing strategy was based on getting black inner-city kids to worship Jordan and his shoes. Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, the Fab Five, etc., made Michael Jordan a billionaire. The NBA Players Association fought like crazy so the Bulls could make $30 million balloon payments to Jordan in each of his final two seasons in Chicago.

And now Jordan, as the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, wants to be the face of ownership greed and vindictiveness.

Wow! And that was from FOX! Does this mean that maybe people are getting over the spell cast on them by the media? Maybe folks are finally seeing Mike for what he really is? It's beginning to look like His Airness is finally getting his comeuppance. I told ya, Mike, you really should have said something to the kids about those damn shoes.

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