Lockout Lookout

February 3

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but at least I’m giving you a heads-up. Two major sports could have labor lockouts next year. It’s quite possible the NBA could lock out players by the summer of 2011, and the NFL could shut down in the spring of ’11.

Why? It’s the economy, stupid.

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said Wednesday that several NFL owners are in a financial bind, and with no salary cap in 2010, the end game could be a shutdown by March of next year. Bisciotti says many teams could be in the red, blaming in part the collective bargaining agreement signed three years ago. He called that CBA a “bad deal.”

Translated: the union had better be prepared for give-backs. Usually, unions don’t like that. Usually, owners react by saying, if you don’t like that, we’ve got a MasterLock that says you’re wrong.

Scare tactics? Maybe. An opening salvo in labor talks? Absolutely. A labor stoppage? It’s happened before.

How can they kill the goose that laid the golden egg? That egg isn’t so golden anymore. If the NFL, the King of the Hill, is experiencing cracks in the armor, you know it’s a really bad recession.

Meanwhile on the hardwood, many NBA teams are said to be struggling as well. Smaller market teams have a smaller profit window to begin with, and the recession has made it a tougher go. Meanwhile, the Lakers and Celtics of the world are prospering, and even the Knicks can make money for being lousy.

That has led to talk of a hard salary cap and more incentive-laden contracts in a new collective bargaining agreement. There is also talk of reducing the players’ cut of revenues from 57 percent to about 45 percent. Them’s fighting words.

That could also lead to a lockout next year.

Union chief Billy Hunter says he doesn’t necessarily believe the owners’ “interpretation” of the financial impact. That’s putting it mildly. He told SI.com that even if the owners are looking for something close to a 50-50 split of revenues, he’s not ready to go anywhere near that figure.

June 30, 2011 is the deadline for a new NBA labor agreement. If there’s no deal by then, expect owners to shutter their arenas. They figure to get up to 30-million dollars per team in revenue from television contracts, anyway. They further figure they’ll be making more money by NOT playing a game.

Outside of the electric bill and office rental space, their expenses will be nil. The union says the teams will have to pay back the TV money somehow, possibly by extending broadcast contracts, but if nothing else it buys them time. Valuable time in a labor dispute.

Warriors player rep Devean George says he’s anticipating a bloody battle, knowing that both sides are probably saving up their money. That means Lincoln town cars instead of stretch Hummers for players going to the club. That means making it hail, not rain, when you get to the club.

Eventually, the Bubb money will run out and the players will have to “settle” for an average of $5 million a year instead of $10 million, but that could take a while. The question is, what will you do as a fan if there is no NFL or no NBA by the fall of 2011? Will you spend more time with your family? Or will you play more golf?

Sorry, dumb question.

Go Sharks!

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