Kings and Queens and Commissioners Too

In Edmund Burke’s, Reflections on the Revolution in France, he talks about how kings are “servants of the people” because their power is contingent on the satisfaction of the people. The king must represent the people and act on their best interests or else the people will become upset and try to overthrow the people, which has happened so many times in history. However, the king also “obeys no other person” and everyone who is under the king must abide by what he says and how he acts. This system is very similar to the power structure in our sports leagues today too, specifically American ones.

A King’s Crown

In the National Basketball Association, David Stern was the longtime commissioner of the league.

Commissioner David Stern

For three decades he oversaw the daily goings on in the NBA and made his fair share of decisions that were seen positively and negatively. He certainly helped in the business aspect of the NBA, helping build 28 new arenas, relocating six franchises and creating seven new teams, which helped better market the NBA throughout the United States. Nonetheless, Stern also had his downfalls as a commissioner as there were four lockouts during his tenure, which is where the connection lies. David Stern, albeit was technically “the king” in this situation, but he could not rally the people under one common labor agreement.

In 2011, the players union and owners could not figure out a labor agreement, thus locking out the league again. This is what happens when the “king,” who technically has the power, is usurped by the people underneath him. When the common people or players in this case, do not agree with the above powers, then that is where conflict arises.

During this lockout period of time, many players decided to play overseas or in Pro- AM games to continuously play throughout the lockout. This connects with another one of the theorists we have studied, A. Bartlett Giamatti in his work, Take Time For Paradise. Some players during this time, were enjoying the time away from the game, but others fell into accordance with Giamatti; the free time made them realize that they needed and wanted basketball in their life or else they felt as if they were just floating through their lives. Because of how the players were not in agreement with the upper management, the system which keeps the NBA afloat, fell through, not giving the product that the consumers want and leaving the players without their beloved game.

NBA player, Jordan Farmar, who decided to play overseas in Israel during the lockout in 2011.

Burke’s system on how to keep the people involved in the governmental system is good because it keeps the balance necessary in order to maintain an agreement between the two parties. However, when those agreements fall through, the responsibility to produce is on the individual who realize that they are wasting their precious window of playing time, so they play somewhere else in order to avoid the inescapable “leisure” that will come at one point in everyone’s life.

The NBA came back and a new labor agreement was reached, Stern ended up resigning three years later, and new man, Adam Silver has now taken the reigns as the commissioner. What will be interesting to see is how he now maintains the balance between the players and owners because that is what will produce happiness for all, which is what everyone wants in the end.


One thought on “Kings and Queens and Commissioners Too

  1. I completely agree with your notion that Stern acted like a key when he was NBA commissioner. For example, I recall when the Lakers and Hornets had agreed on a trade for the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul, but Stern “vetoed” the decision and did not allow it. As we all know, Paul ended up with the Clippers, but I have always been curious as to why he did not allow this trade, maybe as a plan to keep another franchise “afloat” because we all know how much revenue the Lakers pull-in. But I liked how you connected this idea to Burke and his political point of view. It will be interesting to see what Silver does as commissioner, so far I think he has been great and done a lot more for the players.


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