I realize that this site has become overtly taken over by Fanposts about the lockout. However, this one has been stewing for a few days now, and I decided to make a contribution to PPP instead of my personal blog.
Just recently, the NHL has instituted yet another lockout. The third one in the last twenty years. The owners, represented by Gary Bettman, have decided to launch a PR campaign, which is a little puzzling. This is a labour dispute, not an election. What the customers of your products (the fans) think is really irrelevant in this issue. However, the fans have taken sides extremely early this time around, which a lot have sided on the owners' half. This post will detail the actual reasoning of the PR campaigns and silly letters, which may in fact be ingenious. Join me after the jump.
I recently watched the documentary The Billionaires' Tea Party. The movie illustrates how the Tea Part movement in the US isn't really a grassroots campaign started by average Joes. It's in fact a ridiculous propaganda machine created by a small group of extremely wealthy men. People with a political agenda. "What the hell does this have to do with hockey?" you ask. Well it's simple. The idea that the players, or the NHLPA are greedy, rich athletes who are paid to play a game isn't an organic reaction from the fans. It's been carefully manufactured by the league itself, through their tremendous PR work. You see, if the fans are distracted enough, even with the thought that their beloved players are whiners, then they have succeeded in their goal. Its subtle, and effective. It keeps the fans' emotions in check, so fans' backlash isn't turned towards the league, but towards the players. So when hockey inevitably comes back, the fans will flock back in droves, as if nothing has happened. It's what the NHL wants, to keep the fans sedated enough, that they wouldn't really notice that the league is causing all the problems.
The general opinion of the labour dispute, through the eyes of the NHL's fans, is that it's a bunch of people squabbling over money. A lot more money than we normal folk earn in a lifetime. However, the complaint that they players shouldn't whine since they get paid enormous sums of money to play a game, is a bit flawed. I know we all want to earn more money, but blaming the players? Let's get serious here. Players will only make what the market demands for their talents. Just like any other job in a capitalistic society. So the players' salaries here are irrelevant. People bitching about it is exactly what the NHL would like. For the fans to think "Hey, they get paid lots of money, they should just be happy" even though the issue isn't really about money per se.
The entire lockout situation is exactly like any other labour dispute with any other workforce. The employees are fed up with getting a smaller piece of the pie. A delicious pie they contributed immensely to baking. The ownership, in turn, wants to prevent their employees from gaining any sort of equal footing. Instead, they want them to stay subdued, while the cartel of businessmen keep raking in the money, a lot of times illegally. Its beyond me that most fans don't think of this like any other labour issue. Instead of siding with the workers, as most normally do in a dispute, they call them selfish, greddy etc. Which is what most people call owners of actual businesses (GM anyone?)
"Well the players are signing lucrative contracts!!" shout the fans, and owners too! However, this complaint is also extremely flawed. Is the onus really on Zach Parise, or Ilya Kovalchuk, or Jeff Finger to sign mega deals? What human being on this planet wouldn't accept that kind of money to do what they love? Shouldn't the managers of the teams be at fault for making this contracts available in the first place? Or even the owners for allowing it to happen? You disagree? Oh good, the NHL thanks you. These mega deals are what the NHL loves. It feeds into their system, a win-win for everyone. Minnesota and Nashville can commit boatloads of money to a few players, claim that they aren't making money anymore, and reap the benefits. They receive money through the league-wide revenue sharing, and they can be bailed out by the players' escrow! It's genius. So you know what, you're right. It's the greedy, money-driven players who are at fault here.
In April of 2011, the league's revenue climbed to 2.9 billion dollars, a record year for them. Yet their players are asked to accept 47% of the total. I'm sorry? What workforce in the world would be happy with this arrangement? They make up the majority of the operation, while management/ownership make a small minority. Devising a system, or set of ideals that benefit the much smaller minority and cheats the working majority... Hmmmm.... Sounds familiar... Oh that's right, its what we all complain about big businesses doing! Yet, it's the NHL players' fault for this mess for being greedy, uh-huh.
Just like the Tea Party movement in the States, the select, rich few want the general public to be subdued, so that they won't notice the fundamental flaws in the system. The flaws in this case, refer to the ones mentioned above. If teams bleed money, its okay. They can be saved by revenue-sharing and taking money from their players. The league can turn around and cry when a player signs a mega deal, or when franchises start failing. Well, the league made those deals available in the first place, and the league blindly allow franchises to run their team into the ground. This is the same group that kept a businessman who actually had money (Jim Balsillie) away, while inviting a large group of criminals in with open arms. Yes, these are the small group of people you side with in this situation.
Look, I don't mean to be a conspiracy theorist (9/12 was an inside job). But the opinions held by the common fan are the same views the league desperately wants you to have. That the workforce ruined everything by being greedy. The US auto industry was able to destroy itself, then turn around and say that the unions made too much money. So take a step back, think to when you last heard of a labour dispute in your lifetime. Then think to who you would want to side with. For the majority of you, its the labour force, not ownership. Just like The Billionaires' Tea Party illustrates, a very small group of corrupt, greedy billionaires (Or millionaires even) will do anything, even start a "grassroots" campaign to get people to buy their message. That message is that the majority (You) are at fault here, for being exactly what the billionaires are, greedy. This isn't the NHLPA's fault here. It's the NHL who is doing this to the fans.