The NBA Lockout Continues, Is Media to Blame?

Gary AydContributor ISeptember 12, 2011

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 07:  A detail of the finals logo is seen on an offical spandling basketball as the Dallas Mavericks host the Miami Heat in Game Four of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center on June 7, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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We are more than two months into the NBA’s first lockout in over a decade and if you’re not a die-hard NBA fan, you probably didn’t know that.  So you ask: where is the media coverage? 

Good question. 

The league and its players met for just the third time since the lockout began on Wednesday Sept. 7 in New York. 

Really? What happened? Well that’s kind of the problem and no one knows. More disconcerting is the fact that the media seems not to care.  

For a point of reference, litigation bargaining, serious public pressure and discussion were already over a month old by this stage during the NFL lockout. The NBA labor situation is a footnote on the sports page of the morning paper. 

Sure you have the Associated Press reports that at least keep the facts of the lockout updated but any savvy consumer of media knows the AP is not what sells newspapers or makes for compelling TV or talk radio.

The flashy columnist, opinionated radio host, or aggressive TV interviewer that pushes the needle and ultimately helps get those in charge to make a move for fear of public ridicule and backlash. 

A great example of this came in 1968 in the time of the Vietnam War when a story by broadcasting legend Walter Cronkite called the war unwinnable and un-American, then-president Lyndon B. Johnson was reported to have said “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I have lost middle America.” 

That is the kind of power that a strong media personality can have: the power to affect change.  

The media used this power during the NFL lockout by constantly talking about it, breaking it down, and it created constant public pressure that, in my opinion, moved the league much faster on getting a deal done than it would have otherwise.

Yet the NBA sees no such pressure from those same media types. 

What gives?

I understand NFL football is the crown jewel of sports media everywhere and, without debate, the single most popular sport in the country.

That said, it is also the media’s core job to function as a watchdog and pressure big business, politicians and professional sports leagues like the NBA during times in which those fail to do the public its service. 

ESPN, The New York Times, Yahoo! and other media giants had no problem sending out reporters day-after-day, week-after-week and month-after-month to continue to pressure the powers that be to make something happen during the NFL lockout. 

Heck, you couldn't watch a segment of SportsCenter or listen to a block of ESPN radio during the lockout without hearing Adam Schefter or Chris Mortensen update news. 

Now fast forward to the NBA labor situation, which the few reports out there say is currently going nowhere and the regular season is in jeopardy, and Mark Stein, Chris Broussard, Ric Bucher and others are seemingly nowhere to be found. 

Where’s the pressure from the media, specifically, the worldwide leader on the NBA and its players to get this thing done? Where’s the every five-minute update on the situation?

Heck where is any coverage of this increasingly dark and ominous storyline? 

I understand that the NFL is a widely more important property from a business standpoint, but the NBA is no slouch, especially to ESPN, which carries tons of NBA regular season and playoff games.

At some point ESPN owes it to itself and, more importantly its audience, to begin being a watchdog instead of just standing by the NBA’s proverbial clock tick away. 


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