Dear Mr. Thomas,
Let me start off by saying that I have a lot of respect for you. You have used your leverage and influence as an NBA player for a lot of good things. Your charity work is more than just starring in those "NBA Cares" commercials. You are a model for the athlete-citizen. You seem to "get it."
With that being said, sir, your recent column on ESPN.com is unfortunately out of touch with reality. Your column acknowledges a lot of good points including the imbalance of power between the players and owners.
The reality is that fans could care less about players' demands. I understand, acknowledge, and support the NBPA's right to negotiate. However, don't make it sound like you all are fighting to put bread on the table. You're fighting over the whipped cream on your ice cream sundae. It's really hard to sympathize with you all when millions of Americans are just struggling to put dinner on the table.
Should you be standing up for your union? Yes! But the political reality of today is that unions are not very popular. People get pissed off every time the United Auto Workers or local teachers union tries to negotiate for a better deal. If John Q. Public does not feel for a teacher trying to support a family on $50,000 a year, they sure are not going to support the millionaires fighting billionaires. I don't want to make this a political column, but I just want to point out that your union is part of the 1 percent that is not conceding everything but the kitchen sink.
I work two jobs, but I only have to support myself. At my second job, my co-workers and I talk about sports, a lot. One of my co-workers is also a school teacher, supporting a family of four. It's his second job as well. We were speaking about the lockout the other day and it was unanimous: We don't have any sympathy for you.
Granted, the players are not all to blame for this. Owners who have done a terrible job at managing their team should quit. The players have conceded a lot, but again, look at every other union in the country. Many of them have conceded a lot more than you and your fellow players.
The biggest concern I have, Etan, is that the NBPA is painting this as a major injustice. Sorry, that's not going to win you any sympathy points. This group of NBA players is going to be the most well compensated in history, no matter how the negotiations turn out. Etan, you've made close to $44 million over the course of your career. Please put that in perspective for those of us who will only dream about that much money
An NBA player's average salary is well above athletes in other pro sports. It should be due to the way one player can change the course of a team. Please just pay the right players. Rashard Lewis (a mediocre to good player at best) is the second highest paid player in the league. That's not right.
You've seen real injustice during the immensely helpful charity work you've done. I hope you can differentiate between your situation and those you have so graciously helped out.
Enough of my whining. Here's what I think you should do.
First, Please acknowledge this situation for what it is: a difficult labor negotiation. Not another chapter in the OWS movement and not a major injustice, it's tough negotiation.
Second, reach out to the team employees, arena workers and hospitality workers who have been robbed of their jobs, paychecks and livelihood due to this lockout. They have gotten the most raw deal out of this, not you.
Third, say something to the fans. We idolize you all. We pay money to watch you do your job. We wear your uniforms. You are the heroes of thousands of kids. All of us fans want to do is watch the games.
Mr. Thomas, you are an intelligent, reasonable and admirable professional athlete. In fact you say that you are "more than an athlete."
Please step up and show it.