September 26, 2011
The lockout isn't over yet, so we could have something to top this, but it appears as if an NBA player has given us the first Kenny Anderson-type statement.
You remember Kenny, right? During the lockout that stretched from July of 1998 to January of 1999, he was quoted by the New York Times as saying this, unabashedly:
''I was thinking about selling one of my cars,'' he said recently, laughing. ''I don't need all of them. You know, just get rid of the Mercedes.''
Oh, Kenny. He wasn't lying, and he wasn't wrong. But even in those relatively well-heeled economic times, the statement didn't sit well with … well, anyone.
It was shortly after that that my man Michael Tillery (who, by the way, disagrees with me that the stars couldn't put their own run together), from the terrific website The Starting Five, asked Anthony why the star players don't speak out like the NFL's players did during the NFL lockout.
"We're not allowed," Anthony said. "I mean, everybody has their own opinion. You hear people talk here and there. But nobody comes out and says what they really want to say. That's just the society we live in."
He laughed a little.
And, then: "Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali-type statements."
Oh, Carmelo. He's not lying. He's not wrong. But comparing Ali's stand against a conflict in Southeastern Asia that had gone terribly wrong to a discussion over the sharing of actual billions of dollars in Basketball Related Income is the absolute height of absurdity. Yes, athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali-type statements (as is the case with most people that want to keep their jobs), but the application of an anecdote like that to a situation like the NBA lockout is completely and utterly wrong.
Aldridge mentions as much:
Forget for a second that Ali got in trouble (with some) for his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War, for refusing induction into the Army and for not only becoming a Muslim, but a Muslim who supported the controversial teaching of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad until Muhammad's death in 1975. Kind of big things. And by comparison, Anthony was asked about speaking up on a labor dispute involving millionaire athletes and billionaire owners. Kind of little things, in the grand scheme.
And, in Anthony's defense, his point about the relative lack of star power at the bargaining table between the NBA and its players is well-taken.
Yes, in 1998 and 1999 a David Falk-led coterie of famous players helped lead the NBA Players Association, but to an ultimately disastrous affect. The space between the 1995 lockout and the 1998 lockout was filled with escalating top-tier salaries and the routine signing of average players to, quite literally, minimum salary contracts. The stars, during the 1998-99 lockout, attempted to keep that status quo before the rank and file got their way. It wasn't until then that the 1998-99 lockout ended.
"You saw me at a lot of meetings. You see CP. You saw 'Bron at a couple of meetings. But right now, the same thing just keeps going back and forth, so we don't know how powerful we are at this moment. We'll just see what happens."
What happens next, according to CBS's Ken Berger, is a negotiating session on Tuesday that will possibly bleed (or swim, lovingly) over to Wednesday before the observance of Rosh Hashanah sets in on Thursday and Friday. Though it would have made an impact last week to have seen LeBron James(notes), Anthony and Kobe Bryant(notes) at the photo opportunity in Las Vegas, supporting their union while a litany of agents attempt to take it down from the inside, their presence isn't really needed in New York this week.
And in that time, perhaps Carmelo could find another outspoken athlete to compare his particular plight to. Something perched in the middle of, say, Kenny Anderson and Muhammad Ali.
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