Bulletin: Austerity for thee but not for me 🏀

We’re a few bizarre weeks into 2021, and the search for hope in the face of massive financial and health crises continues. And yet from an unexpected figure comes a different tune: Adam Silver, commissioner of the 30-team NBA, has hinted that it may be time to expand the league. What’s going on there?

 

This bulletin comes via guest columnist Liv Harding, Philly DSA Steering Committee Member & Sixers fan

We’re a few bizarre weeks into 2021, and the search for hope in the face of massive financial and health crises continues. Most Americans are cringing in anticipation of the “tough choices necessary to solve our fiscal problems.” That means... cutting stuff. And yet from an unexpected figure comes a different tune: Adam Silver, commissioner of the 30-team NBA, has hinted that it may be time to expand the league. What’s going on there?

Due to massive financial devastation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA’s revenue is severely depleted. Fans are no longer paying for tickets, compulsively buying merch on game day, or spending way too much on crab fries and 24-oz lite beers. Some estimate that the cost to the organization is a staggering $4 billion over the next season, which parallels deep revenue deficits our cities and states face due to mass unemployment and drastically altered spending habits. Americans in the time of neoliberalism have been conditioned to expect that in these circumstances, we’ll tighten our belts and eke by with less. Shouldn’t the NBA be thinking of cutting teams? Stopping the production of hot new uniforms? Punishing the players in emergency contract negotiations with the players union (watch those waiver clauses closely, Tobias Harris)? 

Not necessarily. The way that league expansion works is that the league executives essentially “sell” non-existent teams to the highest bidder, with some consideration for locales. A (new) Seattle team is being gleefully predicted; perhaps a Las Vegas team is in the cards, or let your imagination run wilder: the Omaha Threshers. Expansion means some extremely wealthy business-people will pay the NBA an unspeakable sum — something like $2.5 billion — for the pleasure of owning a new team. We’re talking about people like investment firm president Dan DeVos (yes, that DeVos), who owns the Orlando Magic, and recently defeated COVID-19 profiteer Kelly Loeffler, who owns the WNBA's Atlanta Dream. Their money would be redistributed among the existing teams’ owners to compensate for lost earnings and avoid the harshest cuts: essentially, it’s a stimulus for the NBA.

The heart of the matter is: the NBA has it right. Austerity doesn’t work to stabilize the economy. You have to pump in money. Billionaires and corporations like the NBA know this, and they leverage their power to secure their own stimulus packages while leaving the rest of us to drown. Instead of fighting among ourselves for dwindling resources, let’s expand social services by taking money from rich people and spreading it around. That’s some Group Economics we can get behind.

 

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