Editor's Note: Bumped. -Mike
I’m a big Ted Leonsis fan. I remember being in a sea of noisy red at Caps game several years ago, pining for the day he would take over my beloved Wizards. I’ve been very happy with his early tenure is the Wizards owner. He has been honest and forthcoming about the vision for the team, while being exceptionally communicative with the fan base about how their experience can improve. I’ve emailed with him. I bought and enjoyed his book. He strikes me as a good guy with a huge heart who genuinely wants to do good. I’m sure he’s an exceptionally tough businessman. That tends to be a pre-requisite to achieving the kind of success that he has.
Ted’s an extrovert with a capital E. He blogs, he tweets, he wrote the aforementioned book. He has a stated need for self expression. He tells the world what he’s thinking about music, politics, technology, and business. I’m dying to know what he’s thinking now. I wonder if it’s driving him crazy not to share his perspectives on the lockout.
Last Thursday night night during Billy Hunter’s presser after the collective bargaining mediation imploded, Hunter called Ted out by name, saying something to effect of, “I believe it was Ted Leonsis who said that David Stern promised him a hockey-type system with a hard cap and
shorter contracts.” I wonder if Ted was watching when Hunter said that. I imagine it’s difficult for him not to be able to respond in any fashion.
But I really wonder Ted’s global view of this lockout. Maybe Stern did commit to Ted that the NBA would wipe out a season if it meant the breaking the union and creating a much more owner-friendly system. Perhaps I’m starry-eyed and naïve, but I wonder if that’s what Ted really wants. He’s constantly referencing Abe Pollin’s assertion that owning a sports team is a “public trust” and I think he believes it to be the case. I wonder how he reconciles that fact with the league’s and union’s collective inability to come to an agreement. A lost season would be a complete failure on the part of the game’s stewards -- a betrayal of that same public trust --and a bitter pill for the millions of fans who just love basketball and want to see it played at its highest level and in its most beautiful form.
I wonder what Ted’s perspective is on the current state of negotiations. Does he see the recent progress – the reportedly considerable concessions by the union from the previous CBA – and really want to miss a season? Let’s assume that last week’s three days of intense
negotiation were a merely dog and pony show by the owners and that their goal has been and remains to truly crush the union and pressure the players into a 50/50 revenue split and a host of other systemic changes. With a 52.5 number now supposedly on the table from the players, is the marginal cost to the owners of coming up to, say, 51.25 or 51.5 not outweighed by the benefit of not losing much or all of the season? I’m not just thinking in terms of raw dollars, but of goodwill and avoiding all the inevitable terrible public relations from a protracted
Both sides are fighting a PR war as if public opinion matters; the owners seem to think that anti-player public sentiment somehow creates leverage for them. But even if it does in the short term (andI’m not convinced that it does), at some point the players will be the owners' product again. They'll be needed to sell tickets, merchandise, sponsorships, etc. Shouldn't the owners be more careful in letting their product get portrayed as everything from greedy to stupid to out of touch to “thuggish?”
Ted has made a fortune understanding human behavior and psychology. AOL’s success was rooted in an understanding of people’s inherent desire to connect. Ted fundamentally gets why people are passionate about their sports teams and is very respectful of it. Iwonder if he wants to make compromises to get a deal done sooner rather than later. I just wonder what he’s thinking.