NBA owners make a lot of money, but they spend a lot too

Those who have been paying attention to these pages over the last year or so have noticed a certain trend when it comes to our treatment of the NBA and its owners. Which, according to the NBA commissioner (and not, as he's sadly become, "the head legal representation of the NBA's owners") are the same thing -- when they most certainly are two completely different things.

We have no sympathy for the way they spent too much money in the purchase of their franchises, the amount of money they've needlessly spent on contract extensions, and the way they've consistently ignored all the rules and tenets of the last two collective bargaining agreements in order to go penny and pound foolish and overpay for players.

But we'd be incredibly daft to ignore just how much money these owners spend on things, just for the benefit of players alone, that never show up in actual player payroll.

The players aren't on the hook for what they wear before and after games, they actually get food per diem, they have food brought into the locker rooms both before and after games, they are shipped around the country on private jets for road games, and they are given rooms in the choicest hotels at no cost to them. Not a single penny, all covered by the owners. Want to come to your league-mandated charity appearance? A car, hired by the team, will be there at 10:30. Toss in insurance and on-site health care, and you've just covered the tip of the iceberg.


The owners, understandably, want some of this money back. Or for it at least to be reflected in the divvying of the proverbial pie before they get into straight revenue-minus-payroll-equals-profits arguing. And adding fuel to their fire is this report from Wages of Wins (via Think Progress), that points out a good reason why revenues have been flat despite soaring ratings, merchandise sales and flat player salaries. Matthew Yglesias, from TP, breaks it down:

In real terms, NBA revenues have been flat over the past few years. And player salaries have also been flat. That's not great. You like to see real wage growth and real revenue growth. At the same time, NBA players earn some of the highest wages in the world and NBA franchise owners are even richer, so basically it's all good. But while player salary costs are growing at roughly the rate of overall inflation, other expenses are growing at five times the rate of inflation.

That is to say, "gas prices are a real [witch], ain't they?" Now, as Matthew Yglesias points out at TP, there are all manner of non-player payroll issues that could still be bum moves by the owners, but it is still worth pointing out just how much these teams spend on getting these players to games -- healthy, wealthy, and often wise.

NBA owners are in the wrong here. They have been for years, and this lockout (even should it just stretch out for the first three months of the season) will cost American workers (and not the 450 playing in the NBA) millions, so that 30 majority owners and their group of minority owners can get a better grasp on their finances. It's a greedy maneuver, this lockout.

But they do spend a lot of money on things most don't even know about. And that has to be recognized.

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