We’re four-and-a-half months into the NBA lockout, and things are starting to get silly. People who have no business getting involved are sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong. People like Malcolm A. Smith.
Smith is a New York State Senator. On Wednesday, he helped lead a demonstration outside Madison Square Garden on behalf of Knicks’ season ticket holders. Unfortunately, the demonstration likely had little to do with the fans or the lockout itself—and more to do with cultivating Smith’s image. Smith’s main demand was that Knicks’ season ticket holders should receive a full refund for their 2011-12 seats. But the Knicks have already promised to refund all cancelled games, and with a season looking less likely by the day, Smith’s demands will likely be met eventually, though he’ll have had little to do with it. What Smith was really trying to do was capitalize on the lockout and its publicity to boost his own popularity.
The owners are an easy target to root against and anyone standing up to them, even through a demonstration as meaningless as Smith’s, is going to receive some positive attention. Every educated NBA fan knows the stakes—that it’s not just players and fans who are suffering, but local bar owners and businesses that rely on NBA games to generate traffic. Publicizing this fact isn’t going to make the lockout end any faster, because no one involved in these demonstrations is in the boardroom negotiating. It doesn’t matter what the general public thinks, if David Stern and Billy Hunter (and their constituencies, who must ratify any deal) don’t want a deal, there’s not going to be a deal.
Smith has even tried to tie the lockout into the Occupy Wall Street movement. In this ESPNNewYork.com story, Smith says, “We’re here to let them know that they’re the 1 percent, and there’s that 99 percent that wants to go back to work. The people that park cars, the ones that clean restaurants, those that wait on people in restaurants, the people that own restaurants are here to tell David Stern, Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter that they need to go back to work.” Again, this isn’t about the lockout, because Smith wields no power in determining its outcome. It’s about a State Senator trying to position himself better in his district (which, by the way, does not include Madison Square Garden).
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The guys who are going to make a deal are the same people they’ve always been—Stern and Adam Silver, Hunter and Derek Fisher. Not the agents, not players who travel the country playing pickup games and complain about missing games, and certainly not league outsiders like Smith. This arrangement hasn’t been fruitful so far, but if everyone with an opinion tried to settle things in the lockout, the league might never restart. I’m not supporting the lockout, and I’m certainly not supporting Stern or Hunter, each of whom have made enough missteps to ensure eternal infamy. But the best interest, for both sides, is to eventually reach a deal. Don’t distract them and just let the negotiators negotiate.