SBD/October 12, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 104: Is Twitter Strategy Working For Players?

NBA players used the "Let Us Play" message on Twitter to gain support
With NBA players going on Twitter to get out their message, YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote this "wasn’t an idea out of the union’s smartest PR mind, Dan Wasserman, but one of the consulting pockets of the Players Association that do nothing but waste the players’ dues." He noted that NBPA President Derek Fisher "told the players to post, forgetting that the public’s response -- besides un-following his Twitter account out of sheer annoyance -- was to tell the players to simply take the deal the owners were offering. For “better or worse, NBA players will never win public sympathy,” but the NBPA "wins far more support centralizing its message with Fisher and Hunter, with its stars, than it does letting its player masses go on a largely misguided, and entirely pointless, freelance binge." One agent said, "What the hell was going to happen with that? Is the public supposed to march on David Stern’s office and demand justice for the players now?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/11). In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes the players on Monday "were back in the familiar role of a brooding breed collectively sent to its room by mean old daddy David." Araton notes a more "proactive strategy" might have "allowed the players to avoid the financial trap press of no paycheck." A temporary "solution -- if not their salvation -- may yet be to work abroad." Player agent Marc Fleisher said, "You may see a lot of players soon going over." But Araton notes if "enough players are willing to stand up and sacrifice, if they act like grown men in a boardroom and not children confined to their bedrooms, leverage may yet be found on the other side of pro basketball's abyss." He writes the union went with its "'Let Us Play” message on Twitter “as if some child-protection agency was going to stumble upon the plea and rush to their rescue." Araton: "Silly is how they came across" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/12). ESPN L.A.'s Stephen A. Smith wrote, "Whatever leverage they thought they had is on the verge of extinction. Let the players try to hashtag their way through these negotiations." It is "up to the players to fully explain why a deal could not be made" (ESPNLA.com, 10/11).

WILL STRATEGY GAIN SYMPATHY? In Boston, Gary Washburn writes the CBA negotiations tend to "make the players sympathetic figures, and the Players Association decided to play up that role with their Twitter campaign." But fans "fully realize that the players have a sizable responsibility for this work stoppage, too" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/12). In Memphis, Ronald Tillery notes the "growing anti-player sentiment among fans doesn't sit well with Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, who unleashed his grit and grind" yesterday on Twitter. Allen wrote: "If I see 1 more person on my timeline thinkn! The players want more money -im gone go crazy!!" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/12). In Cleveland, Bud Shaw writes, “Blaming locked-out players in a work stoppage? Sounds like a plan, just one that defies logic.” Shaw: “Commissioner Bully made the call, doing the bidding of an ownership whose strategy is to watch players squirm when they start missing checks and wait for the inevitable wave of public resentment to crash down on their heads.” Shaw adds, “In communicating with an unsympathetic public, the players are best served sending condolences to fans and arena workers as [Heat F LeBron] James and [Suns G Steve] Nash did this week. Even if they, as yet, have nothing for which to apologize in a lockout that is sole property of NBA owners” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/12). CNN.com’s Doug Gross writes under the header, “Can NBA Players Really Win The Lockout War On Twitter?” Gross notes this may be the first time Twitter has “been an integral part of a plan to sway public opinion.” Univ. of Pennsylvania’s Eric Rabe, who studies social media use as Senior Advisor of the Fels Institute of Gov’t, said, “It’s logical for players to take this approach. They’ve got a resource there to exploit and an issue they want to get on the table in front of the fans. I’m sure they’ll have some success with it” (CNN.com, 10/12).

HUNTER'S CALL ON DECERTIFICATION: Priority Sports Founder & CEO Mark Bartelstein said, “Whether the NBPA gets decertified or not, it's Billy's decision to make. My position and other agents want to support Billy." Bartelstein: "The player's association has made some gigantic leaps here. ... They have not been met with that same effort by the league, and for David, with all due respect, to say the league has made some concessions is characterizing it in an unfair way when the players are the ones that made the concessions and tried to make a deal” ("GameTime," NBA TV, 10/11).
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