Legal Hoopholes

Originally appeared in the January 1999 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

Legal Hoopholes


Labor law has been getting a lot of press lately as the professional basketball strike—the “NBA lockout” as it’s known—grinds on. Some lawyers, those with way too much time on their hands, are anxious to know why the strike hasn’t been resolved. Here are the most-asked legal questions:

Q. Why do they call it a “lockout”?

A. The players are actually physically locked out of all facilities. However, the measure isn’t as harsh as it may seem because of the deep talent level in the NBA. All teams have at least one player on the roster experienced at playing the low post and breaking and entering.

Q. What is the crux of the dispute?

A. The argument is over a complicated formula for determining the amount of “basketball-related income” to be received by the players and that to be retained by the owners. After months of heated negotiations, the main sticking point continues to be the precise percentage split between the two groups.

Q. Are they close to agreeing on a percentage?

A. Out of concern for the fans, both sides have offered to compromise. In the most recent proposal, the owners are demanding 100 percent and the players are demanding 100 percent.

Q. Is there a way to generate more money to make everyone happy?

A. The parties have been working on a plan to boost revenues by enlisting corporate sponsors. Rumored corporate tie-ins in the works have the New Jersey Nets becoming the Microsoft Net Browsers, the Miami Heat becoming the Lennox High Efficiency Heating and Cooling Units and the New York Knicks being renamed the No Nicks, No Scratches Minwax Floor Polishers.

Q. What about the Boston Celtics?

A. They’re terrible.

Q. Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning has publicly accused the owners of greed. Apparently, Mourning feels the $13 million he was scheduled to receive this season is unfair. Is he right?

A. It’s more than unfair. It’s an outrage. How can we as a society justify paying only $13 million to a person highly skilled at putting a ball in a hoop while continuing to allow our nation’s teachers to ransack the economy for up to thirty thousand dollars a year?

Q. Is the loss of revenue during the strike crippling the owners?

A. Some revenue continues to flow in. Fans who pay $1,000 a ticket to sit in the front row just to be seen are still showing up. At a recent canceled game between the Knicks and the Lakers, Spike Lee was ejected from an otherwise empty Madison Square Garden for taunting Jack Nicholson.

Q. What is NBA Commissioner David Stern’s current negotiating strategy?

A. Trash talking and slam dunking his balled-up napkin into a styrofoam coffee cup.

Q. Every day my local newspaper prints “total games missed” because of the strike. How many games would be left if play were resumed today?

A. Not many. We’re getting close to the critical 100,000 game threshold deemed necessary to make for a viable season (not including the 24,000 playoff games).

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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