Carmelo Anthony Trade: Could It Be the Final Straw for Players' Freedom?

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Carmelo Anthony Trade: Could It Be the Final Straw for Players' Freedom?
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Everywhere you look today, fans and scribes alike are reviewing the merits of the trade bringing Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks from Denver. But they're missing an issue that is far more important than where he ended up or who he was traded for.

This move could impact the future for choices players have moving from team to team.

Back in the old days, players were slaves to their teams. If they drafted you, you were their property unless they decided to release or trade you.

Not anymore.

Now the players dictate where they want to play, and there is no better example of that than the Miami Heat. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made a pact while playing for the Olympic team that they would try to play for the same club if they could swing it once their deals were done.

You could call that collusion, and you would be right. You see, it's okay for the players to collude, but don't dare let the owners attempt that or "We'll be seeing you in court."

That happened in the past in baseball when it was determined that the owners got together and agreed not to offer contracts to free agents to try to keep the skyrocketing costs down.

The owners got their lunch handed to them in court, and now the pendulum has swung the other way, with the players running the show and the owners standing there with their d***s in their hands.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Baseball was the first sport that challenged a team's right to determine where a player could perform. Curt Flood refused a trade by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies, saying he didn't want to go there and that he should be able to decide where he wanted to play.

Flood wrote a letter to the baseball commissioner at the time, Bowie Kuhn, saying, "After 12 years in the major leagues, I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes."

Kuhn denied his request, and Flood sued him and Major League Baseball, alleging that "the reserve clause violated antitrust laws, as well as the 13th Amendment, which barred slavery and involuntary servitude."

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and Flood lost by a 5-3 decision.

Even though he lost, his challenge had an effect on the future of baseball and sports in general.

In 1973, Major League Baseball agreed to federal arbitration of salary demands.

Just two years later, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally again challenged the reserve clause, and this time, instead of a court of law making the decision, an independent arbitrator ruled in favor of the players and the rest is history.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

To show you how far things have come, the baseball minimum went from $6,000 to $10,000 in 1968, when Marvin Miller negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in professional sports.

The past history of sports was tremendously unfair to the players, who, almost to a man, had to work to make ends meet when their season was over.

But is it now fair that the pendulum has swung completely in the other direction?

Players now make salaries that are so prolific that for some, generations can live off the income. For that, can't they suffer the hardship of not playing in their preferred destination?

The Carmelo Anthony trade is a perfect example of that.

The Denver Nuggets wanted to trade him to the New Jersey Nets, but Anthony kiboshed the trade because he wouldn't agree to sign an extension with them. He had already turned down an offer of three years, $65 million from the Nuggets.

Now there is talk that Chris Paul or Deron Williams will be the next star to join the Knicks once their contracts are up.

Players are forming super teams, and the owners are powerless to do anything about it.

What was once unfair for the players is now unfair for the fans of those teams that don't happen to be in attractive locales.

Should the players be able to play for whatever team they choose?

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The tickets to games are already through the roof because of the escalation of salaries since the reserve clause was outlawed.

It's bad enough to have to take a loan out to take your family to a game, but for those less fortunate fans of teams that can't keep their star players, it takes the fun out of even watching them anymore.

When you know you don't have a chance before the season starts—or realistically for many teams, ever—it dampens your spirits and alienates you as a fan.

I'm sure everybody is happy for the players, but what nobody seems to realize is that the fans pay for their fabulous lifestyles. If nobody came to the games, they wouldn't be making the money they are now able to command.

While this is a livelihood for the players, it's a distraction for the fans from the doom and gloom most people have experienced in the past few years. When sports becomes like everything else, there is no longer a need for it.

It's easier in basketball to build a super team because of the limited rosters, but it affects all sports. The Yankees are a much more attractive destination than Pittsburgh.

The rich get richer, and the poor...who cares?

Both basketball and football will face labor strife in 2011. It's possible that both sports won't have a season come next fall.

There could be changes in the way teams do business and the freedom that the players have to move around.

While progress is normally considered a good thing, I kind of yearn for my childhood, when players stayed with one team rather than selling their services to the highest bidder. There was a bond between both the fans and the players back then.

Sometimes progress is not all it's cracked up to be.

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